Wednesday, 31 August 2011


The impact of the Just So Festival continues. The other day puppets were the in thing (a la Talullah Swirls in particular).

The stories largely involved puppets introducing themselves to each other. And space ships.

On Sunday we did "Kids with Cameras" which was a session we couldn't fit in at the festival and the girls took pictures of things in specific categories.

When taking a picture of a flower Tilly fell face first into a wet flower bed but all photographers have to start somewhere.

Yesterday they put on a circus show but I drew the line at them wanting to "use the bed steps as the way up to the trapeze". They did juggling with one ball instead.

Then this morning we were invited to see the Fairy queen and were greeted with this:

We went on to question the Fairy Queen about a number of things.

What do you do?
I look after wildlife, toadstools and stuff.

Where do you live?
In a special fairy den in a forest I really love called Sherwood forest. (Apparently each forest has it's own fairy queen)

What do fairies eat?
Blueberries and shiny berries.

Can you fly?
(Looks at me like I'm an idiot) Yes.

Do you know the Tooth Fairy?
Yes her name is Arabella.

How much does she pay for a tooth? (I thought best to get it from the horse's mouth since a friend recently told me it's £10 for the first tooth and £2 for all subsequent teeth and I thought we would need to remortgage...again)
£1 (phew)

What does she do with the teeth?
She puts them with other teeth and makes false teeth. Like the ones Father Christmas has. (Raymond Briggs' responsibility)

What do Fairy Queens have for Breakfast (we hadn't eaten yet)?
Blueberries and shiny berries. And toast.

Shall we go and tell Daddy what you want for breakfast?
(Whispers) You know what, I don't think he knew it was really me dressed up.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

More training

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, my husband Paul is climbing Ben Nevis, Scafell Pike and Snowdon over 48 hours with some radio station people and the cast of Emmerdale. All in aid of Hallam FMs local charity Cash for Kids, and in the spirit of adventure.

In the beginning he was determined to do a lot of walking, cycling, and not drinking for the few weeks of training he had. He's actually done a reasonable amount of walking (including hills) and a reasonable amount of cycling quickly, and rather a lot of drinking. To be fair he was never going to be successful on that front and it is the holidays.

So this morning, after half a bottle of cava the night before, he headed off on the Round Walk which is 14 miles long. The total distance he will travel in two weeks time is only 25 miles (although obviously with a lot more ups and downs) so to make it more relevant he decided to do it as quickly as possible. He set off at quite a lick and despite several signs being removed (and adding a further 3 miles to his journey), he completed it in only 4 hours.

As a result he returned home absolutely knackered. His legs only just made it up Carterknowle Road apparently. And he looks slightly like he's suffered a tiger attack due to an unfortunate leg meets bramble incident. He also has his first walking related blister. We have no idea what all this tells us about his ability to climb three peaks in 48 hours.

What we do know is that I'll be glad when all this is over for one huge reason. Paul's appetite. All week I have been trying to assist him in his ventures by "carbing him up". But since he got back today he hasn't stopped eating.

You know the image of a desperate man climbing the last sand dune weakly calling "water"? Well Paul stumbled across our front step calling "protein!". I had very little in frankly (having been concentrating on carbs) so he had to make do with a mountain of pasta and four slices of ham on top. That was after he had eaten his sandwiches and snacks on route (including a revolting recommended high protein flapjack and energy gel). Since he ate his second lunch he has had crumpets, banana bread, toast and double dinner. And I keep catch him opening and closing kitchen cupboards.

Apparently he's going to do some more exercise in the morning to keep up the momentum in the last two weeks before he goes. I clearly need to go shopping again.

Seeing his sponsorship money go up is a massive incentive for him. So can you spare a couple of quid to spur him on in the last two weeks? Or failing that can you pop over with some high protein meals for me to give him please? ;)

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Nina and the Neurons

The girls were just in the bath talking about science experiments and Nina and the Neurons on CBeebies.

Phoebe :"I'd ask Nina why the water comes out of the teapot but the bubbles don't."

Tilly:"That's a good question we should write and ask her. Then you'd have to be on telly."

Phoebe (looking concerned): "...but I'd want to come back"

Tilly: "You don't actually go inside the telly you know."

Phoebe: "Oh, OK then."

Wednesday, 24 August 2011


I think I have post holiday blues. Which is a bit daft since it's not the end of the holidays yet. But it's the end of the really exciting events we have all looked forward to and loved. It genuinely has been the best holiday we've ever had.

What is left is a week and a half of bickering - that's if today is anything to go by.

No that's not fair it isn't bickering. It's mostly Phoebe irritating her big sister by being silly, ruining her activity or simply by hitting her around the head with a table mat. It's not always a table mat. Sometimes it's a cushion. Or sometimes she just pokes her repeatedly while they are watching TV.

I think they make the summer holidays 6 weeks long for a good reason. If it was only 4 weeks long there is a good chance you wouldn't take your child back to school at all. Four weeks of playing, seeing friends and family, going away and everyone getting on well. The last two weeks make the holiday just too long and ensure any harmony you have experienced will be forgotten. You'll be lining up at the school gates two
hours early on the first day back. The keenness to return might be that your school child is driving you mad. Or maybe you are craving a return to routine bedtimes and personal space. For me I simply want her to go back to school to protect her from table mat related injury.

Not that I want you to think Phoebe is terrible. She isn't. She's 3. And has a big sister who will react every single time she prods her. So even if Mummy is out of the room (so is clearly starving her of attention for ten minutes) she has an audience on tap.

The worse thing is Phoebe smirks every single time and I have to repeat ad nauseum "it isn't funny". But it is when you are 3.

She says "sorry" to Tilly and then she throws herself on me and says "beautiful mummy". It's hard to stay mad. But then I think she knows that.

So I have post holiday blues. I'm missing the good bits already. On top of that I am shattered. As is the rest of the family. I think I need a sleep and some quality time with my big girl before she goes back to school.

Fortunately it's bank holiday Monday so Paul has volunteered to have Phoebe. He's going to take her on a 14 mile round trip walk as part of his training. Hmm.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Just So Festival

We have been away camping for a few days for the Just So Children's Festival in Staffordshire and I can heartily recommend it.

There were of course some negatives, to an extent to be expected since this is only the festival's second year. The main problem was that the site had a water problem and ran out early on day two. This left festival goers who care about personal hygiene high and dry. Fortunately my family aren't cursed with concern over cleanliness, well not during a festival anyway.

We did have vague good intentions and bought a new towel to take with us but it didn't come out of the bag. To be fair I suspect it wouldn't have done even if the showers had worked. We made do with baby wipes and hoped that the muck spreading on the next field could be used as an excuse should anyone question our own aroma. Plus it's a bit like garlic, if you all stink it no longer matters.

There was a very tense moment when the lantern making people ran out of latex glue (aaah memories of peeling copydex off your fingers) and Tilly started to cry. After being encouraged to try our best to finish our lantern anyway we set to the task with gusto. Never have you seen a more swift and determined set of family gluers. We managed it though (well just the bottom bit but enough to call it a lantern). Shame they didn't quite get the resources right though. Although I hold the six foot long shark lantern makers slightly responsible.

And the only other thing that irritated us was the cost. Not of the festival but of the food. On the first day I agreed to buy the girls fairy cakes and asked for three. He handed me the cakes then asked me for £9. I was so stunned that I actually opened my purse and paid him. Ten seconds later I realised what I had done. And I realised he hadn't had prices visible on the cakes. I mean I know the "if you have to ask you can't afford it" quote but didn't consider that could ever apply to a cupcake. Obviously I'm being sent a message from somewhere to go back on that stupid diet.

Other than that? I'd go so far as to say it was magical. I worried that I would look through the programme and struggle to find things for Phoebe but she could be included in almost everything Tilly wanted to do. And man did they do a lot of stuff. Dancing, puppet shows, sandcastles, donkey riding, board games, and tonnes of craft (dragonflies, clay models, moustaches, fairy postcards). There were brilliant performers including characters from Alice in Wonderland, jugglers, fairies, Elmer, the Gruffalo, the Jumblies, story tellers - the list goes on and on. Tilly especially liked being amazed by science experiments at the Physics tent.

Planning what to do each day did take some effort on my part. Then half way through Saturday Paul lost the programme which rendered me in a state of slight panic. Honestly I relinquished control of the programme for one minute and asked him to pick it up, then we never saw it again. I'm no good without a timetable at
these sorts of things. Next year I'll take my own laminator and hole punch and string the programme round my neck. Anyway I tried hard to manage without a programme, then decided now was not the time to change the habit of a lifetime so bought another one. Which I did not let Paul touch.

It was all pretty fantastic and imaginative but there were particular highlights. Being book obsessed in this house we loved seeing the authors and illustrators read and draw for the kids. Mini Grey was particularly brilliant and left the girls with lots of ideas and a little book each to complete at home.

The beautiful lantern parade on Saturday night was a perfect end to the first main day. Paul eventually recovered from the neck sleeper hold Phoebe inflicted on him (she was a bit too tired to walk) and they went straight to bed afterwards exhausted but happy.

The Toy Stories animation session run by B-Arts was a big hit too. The girls took their favourite toys in to be filmed with stop frame animation and Sleepy Bear took Barbie for a ride on a flying carpet (Phoebe's comfort blanket). Then we watched the film premiere before coming home on Sunday night. It was inspired and hilarious.

Finally we loved "Fly Away Katie" by Long Nose Theatre Company so much we bought the CD and I'm not yet sick of it despite having it on quite a few times today. Perfectly beautiful puppets, story and music.

But the best bit? The kids loved every minute of it all. So many new experiences and the opportunity to build sandcastles and hide behind trees. Genius.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011


I went to the cinema last night with my mum, which is a very unusual occurrence. Grandad had the opportunity to encourage the girls to go to sleep and we were going to a girly film with a good review. It should have been a good night. Hmm.

Maybe I've become a prude. Ok watching fairly explicit (albeit supposedly funny) sexual opening scenes sitting next to your mum is never going to be entirely comfortable but I guess we got through that bit relatively unscathed.

Then it moved into some rather lovely amusing best friend relationship stuff and I thought we were home free.

After that it became the sort of comedy that makes me uncomfortable. I genuinely began squirming in my seat as the lead character embarrassed herself in front of a large number of guests. I have never really been able to enjoy awkward comedy.

Just when I thought it was only going to be a bit crap the (I realise now) inevitable excrement and vomiting scene happened. Based on the audience's reaction we must have been in the minority but I genuinely have never considered those two things to be amusing. Mum suggested that motherhood might have made it worse. Then we agreed that no, it wasn't funny before I had kids either.

The film essentially follows the planning of an extremely over the top and expensive wedding, and the somewhat tragic private life of the maid of honour. My friends will know that I have always said the best films have two things in them: transformation and dance. This should have been an ideal candidate then since it had lots of both. But it also had a food poisoning vomiting scene. Transformation, dance and vomit shall henceforth be the categorisation of a bad film.

The actresses Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph were pretty good. Most of the other characters were pretty hateful, but then American film makers rarely see humour in nice people.

The only real saving grace of this film for me was Chris O'Dowd who played the love interest for Kristen Wiig. I wasn't expecting him to be in it so his appearance was a relief frankly, and by the end my heart leapt a little whenever he appeared on the screen.

There were a few laugh out loud moments for me and my mum so it must have been funny it parts. But to be honest they were mostly from Chris O'Dowd's character.

There were also some more cringeworthy comedy moments including a breakdown chocolate fondue flinging moment and then it finished off as it had begun with a very different, but just as awkward, sex scene. It had the added extra of being revolting.

The audience seemed to to find it funny. And they all went "aaaaah" in unison when andrex puppies were shown wearing bow ties. Obviously the film makers knew what they were doing then. We were just in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Nice to go out with mum though. Next time we'll read the reviews more closely before we go...

Saturday, 13 August 2011


I thought I heard an ominous buzzing in our roof space before we went away on holiday and had half convinced myself that we would come home to an infestation. In fact by the time we came home there was no buzzing. Obviously that particular wasp didn't think we had the right sort of conditions to set up home.

Then on Wednesday a daughter of my friend was stung in our garden and I noticed a wasp nest under our neighbour's guttering. There is a serious amount of wasp activity.

The following morning Paul woke up with a wasp in his ear at 5am. Frankly it was rather disconcerting for him.

So I went round to tell the neighbours about the nest, but I doubt they will deal with it. They are in an upstairs flat and since they hadn't noticed and have no garden it's not a big concern for them. Plus it's a very dull thing to spend your money on.

What to do then? Oh yes the Internet. Paul looked and discovered two things about wasps:

1. Wasps are a bit slow. If you hang a blown up paper bag somewhere they will be fooled into thinking it's another wasp nest temporarily and leave that area alone. I was at a show today situated next to a cupcake stall so was preparing myself for a wasp onslaught. Then I remembered about the bag. I figured it wouldn't hurt to try out the theory, at the very least it would stop Paul going on about it. Bizarrely it seemed to work almost instantly. From loads of wasps, to one or two. After about three hours they came back. Paul said we should have moved the bag at this point as they might be slow but they aren't stupid and work out pretty quickly it's a fake. Who knew?

2. The only predators you can introduce to deter wasps are...badgers. So a few problems there then. Paul's first concern was how to to get the badger into the attic in case the wasps did decide to move in here. Then he was concerned about how to get it to leave since badgers have no known predators. Based on a previous run in with a badger in our back garden there is no chance Paul would be chasing it down the stairs.

I'm more concerned with how we are going to get the badger to float up to the neighbour's bathroom window.

I know my uncle has purchased a fake wasp nest. I'm going to make do with paper bags and move them around the garden every couple of hours. Well obviously I won't be doing that but I'll put one up when we're eating outside. And I'll look sternly at the wasp nest every day and see if I can make them feel uncomfortable.

Friday, 12 August 2011

Day Seven

Friday was a beautiful day. We made it out of the tent early, didn't attempt to go anywhere further than Whitby and spent hours on the beach making ambitious naval projects out of sand. We also buried the girls in the sand a lot. It took about a week to get all the sand out of their ears afterwards.

In the afternoon we went back into Robin Hoods Bay to the museums. Tilly then finally understood what smuggling was and spent some time smuggling stuff in and out of the tent.

So the end of the holiday was nigh and Paul had sourced cava from a more orthodox route. I imagined another evening watching the sunset sipping cava.

In actuality I spent most of the evening swigging cava out of a red plastic mug on my own while Paul joined in a game of 3andahalf-a-side football...with three boys age 3 to 6 and two other dads (one with a limp so Paul fitted right in). I wasn't sure that football on an uneven field with long grass whilst wearing crocs was wise but he didn't sustain further injury.

It was a classic jumpers for goal posts pitch. Apparently you can still have offside in this kind of environment. And Paul is the Hooks House Farm Peter Crouch. I confirmed that, just like Peter, Paul can't dance either.

The goalie on Paul's side was three and was reminded every four minutes not to bite his nails. He was still giggling despite being 8-2 down. This was my kind of football match. Towards the end he lay down in the goal and went to sleep.

I let Paul have one mug of cava before we called it a night. Paul says he gets what the fuss about camping is about now. And I remember the whole point of it all.

As if all this positivity wasn't enough we managed to get up early and pack the last bag in the car as the torrential rain just began. We drove home without getting stuck or lost and made it back in time for a farm birthday party. Sometimes it just works. I am glad I've written all this out so I can remind myself in years to come that summer holidays aren't always damp.

Day Six

We aimed to walk from the campsite to Boggle Hole and back on day six. We had bought and eaten cake within the first fifteen minutes. Well you never know how long it will be till the next cake shop on a trek.

Then we filled Paul's pockets with fossils again as we walked along the beach. In the Boggle Hole Youth Hostel Phoebe spotted a friend from playgroup. I thought she was just befriending children again as she tends to do, but turns out she was right and I then met her mum and dad and arranged a play date for the girls the following week. A bit bizarre.

Turns out Tilly doesn't believe in boggles. She still seems happy with the tooth fairy and Father Christmas thankfully. I thought that was going to be a tricky conversation walking along the cliff top.

We had extortionate but delicious fish and chips for lunch. Which was then slightly spoilt by us seeing frozen Russian fish being delivered afterwards.

In the evening I put the girls to bed while Paul went on a training expedition. Well he went to try and buy wine and ended up at the bottom of Robin Hoods Bay surreptitiously buying a bottle through the window of a pub snug. But he did walk downhill one way and uphill back.

I personally definitely believe in boggles. I reckon it was a boggle that arranged the sun over the sea, orange sunset and rainbow to end our day.

Day Five

We are always early for everything. Early rising children tend to do that to you. While camping they still rise early but for some reason today we couldn't manage to leave the campsite before 10.30...along with every other beach bound holiday maker. So day five started badly.

Tilly wanted to go to the folk museum but I had insisted on the beach. So we attempted to get to Runswick Bay. We failed to park so went back to Sandsend. Then failed to park so went back to Whitby and after I'd stopped the steam coming out of my ears we had a nice hour on the beach.

Then we set off the car again to the folk museum at Hutton-le-Hole, which was of course where Tilly had wanted to go in the first place.

The folk museum was lovely, full of period houses for the kids to explore. Plus the blacksmith made Tilly her own nail to take home.

We read "You Choose" by Nick Sharratt last night and there's a page where you have to pick what job you'd choose. She said hers wasn't on there as she wants to be someone who makes nails. So she had to pick a hairdresser instead. But I digress.

Anyway it turned out to be a lovely day and I shall listen to my five year old for planning advice in the future.

The kids went to bed even later that night. I was a bit concerned that if the bedtime kept shifting at this rate they would soon be going to bed after us. I must remember to teach Tilly how to operate the dishwasher.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Day Four

We went into Whitby on Tuesday and did more seaside things including going out on the old lifeboat and seeing porpoises. Well Paul saw the tail of one. I didn't since I was too busy reassuring Phoebe that she was't going to fall in. We also went to the paddling pool to make use of the inflatable turtle and around the somewhat bizarre Wizard Science Museum (whose proprietor reminded me strongly of the unusual volcano guy we met in Iceland).

On returning to the campsite we bumped into a friend of mine from Sheffield who was unexpectedly camping on the same site as us. She has girls a similar age to ours so the evening was spent watching them play whilst drinking home brew and Lidl lager with her and her husband. Now there's a recipe for a hangover.

During the evening I explained Paul's plan to climb three peaks in 48 hours. The impact of this statement was a little undermined since Tim has already done this, but in 24 hours. Paul tried not to feel disheartened and we did explain how few mountains Paul has climbed so far in his life, his enlarged ankle and his love of programming. He looked suitably impressed then and suggested steep road in Sheffield for him to walk up and down.

Bedtime was getting interesting. The girls had seemingly decided to sleep on the floor instead of the mattress. Ironic really since Paul's side of our airbed had now developed a slow puncture and by the end of the night he was practically on the floor with me sleeping four inches higher than him. I didn't think it was reasonable to commandeer their mattress.

Day Three

Monday was the first day of fossil hunting at Ravenscar. Largely this involved wandering about looking at varying sizes of stones. Tilly, Paul and I tried to find fossils while Phoebe picked up every other stone and insisted I put it in my pocket. I gave them to Paul in the interests of training.

We were warned not to go too near the cliff face as it's unstable. We sat eating our picnic and watched a fairly sizeable chunk fall off. Paul felt it important to warn the family who were chipping away under a large overhang with their children. They didn't seem to care that it might land on their heads as they were in the pursuit of ammonites. Our conscious was clear anyway.

Later on I noticed two people on our campsite wearing bikinis, and at the same time one wearing a furry gilet and a bobble hat. Camping is hilarious.

I personally didn't take a bobble hat but I did get chilly in the evening sitting outside, despite the fact that we had been playing bat and ball (more training efforts) and drinking wine out of plastic mugs. I went and got out my checked camping blanket and covered my knees with it. Paul said I fit right in in Robin Hoods Bay and that he would order the plaque for my bench now. Cheeky bugger.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Day Two

We spent the next day at the beach in Whitby building sandcastles, playing crazy golf badly and leaping on trampolines (unfortunately not the grown ups).

Paul's training continued with a vengeance with him wholeheartedly embracing kite flying, frisbee throwing, bat and ball and football (whilst giving Tilly a piggy back). Unorthodox but hey ho.

Unfortunately his first training injury was sun burnt feet. In the absence of after sun lotion he applied aftershave balm and sudocrem. I find it hard to believe that speeded along his recovery.

Night two and Phoebe worked out how to stay on the mattress. She asserted her position and took up the whole bed with arms outspread. This evidently pushed Tilly onto the floor between the mattress and the zip. It was mildly disconcerting when we opened the zip and an unconscious head fell onto the floor. It was then quite challenging repositioning them without waking them up, what with the bouncy castle flooring and slippery sleeping bags. They probably thought they were reliving Jumping Jimmies trampolining in their dreams.

Day One of Hilton Holiday

In the absence of technology I wrote the key points for these entries with a pink princess pencil. It made a nice change.

The journey to Robin Hoods Bay was, in general, dire. Phoebe decided to inform us that she needed the loo for once so we foolishly left the motorway and ended up sat in traffic for hours. Very boring but at least I didn't have to wash the car seat.

To alleviate the boredom we played a few games with the kids including one where we asked them to name five things in different categories. When asked to name five body parts Tilly said "Brain, adenoids, veins, kidney beans and toe nails". She definitely doesn't get this outlook on life from me.

The only other thing worth mentioning is, however bad things get in traffic don't stop to buy ice creams and then let small people eat them in the back of the car. It is not a treat for anybody.

Despite all the mess and the pain in my clutch leg, we arrived at Hooks House Farm Campsite in Robins Hoods Bay in a positive mood. We were given a fantastic pitch (if a bit slopey) with an uninterrupted view of the sea. I have never stayed in a more beautiful spot. We could walk into the village and down onto the beach, and to the pub and the wine shop. Marvellous. Plus it had a a field to play in directly next to the tent which made it safe and fun for the kids (who were very happy to repeatedly leap on the large newly re-inflated turtle they insisted on bringing).

And what about that thing we all dread about camping. Did they sleep?

The answer seemingly was yes. Albeit not on the mattress but on the floor at the foot of it in Phoebe's case. She didn't seem to mind. Maybe she would work it out the following night...