Wednesday, 25 June 2014


Nowadays things have gone somewhat bananas in the preteen activity department. The choice is endless. Add to that a child who is enthusiastic to do anything she is offered and it could be a recipe for disaster. Or at the very least a recipe for never seeing your child. Tilly hasn't chosen anything too unusual so far, but she adamantly refuses to stop doing any of the things she does. Which means we may never know if she is a natural potter but you have to draw a line somewhere.

She currently goes to choir, yoga, gymnastics, Brownies and Razzamataz as well as playing guitar. Small people social calendars nowadays are barmy. I have informed her there are only 7 days in a week and she needs to fit in her homework and a bit of actual playing at some point but none of the above seem to be going anywhere anytime soon.

Her favourite activity without a doubt is Razzamataz on a Saturday. She is apparently going to keep going until she's old enough to teach at it. Alongside running a farm and a sweet shop of course.

There are a few theatre schools in Sheffield. There is one 50 yards from my house. I'm still not entirely sure why we didn't try it and plumped for a trial at Razzamataz based at Norton college instead. I don't think it can have been the pull of the Duncan Bannatyne connection. It was much more likely to be because Helen, the Principal, is so darn lovely and organised. And she'd have to be with the number of children who go through the Razz doors on a Saturday. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

So my eldest has been a Razz Junior for nearly two years, and my youngest a Razz mini for one. They do dance, drama and singing each week and get the chance to perform regularly at events and annually at the big show. We are full on committed in this family. Even Phoebe's party had to be a Razz one this year.

The children adore going and I think the whole thing is so happy and well run I can't see the need to ever go anywhere else. I mean ok on a bad day I can drive backwards and forwards to Norton four times but it's a small price to pay when they are so happy. And it does usually mean I get out of cleaning the rabbit hutches. Anyway, if you check the parenting small print, driving about for at least 16 years is non negotiable.

It was the big show, "For One Night Only" at the Octagon on Sunday and it's fair to say all the parents did their fair share of ferrying about. Backwards and forwards to rehearsals and then dropping the children off for the show itself.

Then it began. The chance to see what they get up to every week and of course to glow with parental pride.

There were two acts. The first full of juniors and minis singing their head off, dancing to pop songs and acting in short versions of musicals. Mine were in Hairspray and The Wizard of Oz, but others were in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and a brilliant version of Matilda. The girls got to watch the second half and were rapt watching the inters, seniors and even teachers doing their thing. Wicked was a big hit with my two. There were some stunning soloists in both acts but overall it was simply high energy inclusive happiness. With all the bouncing I never stopped to think about what the organisation of over 200 children must have been like. Phenomenal.

The kids loved it. We loved it. And yes at some points welled up.

It's three days later and we are still smiling. Watching your children grow in confidence and ability is amazing at any time. Watching them do it dressed as a munchkin and a sixties dancer and it's pretty close to perfection. (The kids were dressed up not me clearly).

So there you go. A recommendation for you, should you be considering theatre school classes for kids. They teach 4-18 year olds and you can look here to find out more.

This week my mini becomes a junior and to top all this positivity off that means that they both go to the same activity, at the same time for two and a half hours. I know, how amazing is that? I'm thinking coffee, shopping, a nap...the choices are endless.

Wednesday, 18 June 2014

Things I cannot do comfortably today

1. Go upstairs
2. Go downstairs
3. Stand up from sitting
4. Sit down from standing.
5. Pick things up
6. Get back up from the floor if I fall over
7. Get in the bath
8. Get out of the bath.
9. Steer.

I did boot camp. It only cost £1. And my mobility.

Sunday, 15 June 2014

For My Dad

I share quite a lot with my Dad. My birthday of course. Along with the Bean nose and the ability to wiggle my ears. It's quite a party trick but a bit more of his sense of logic would be more beneficial.

So it's father's day today and I want to write something. And not just because I didn't get the card in the post in time. Because it's a good time to say thank you. I should say it more often.

I remember the day my Dad grew a beard. I remember it clearly because it was bristly when he kissed me. And I was about six and didn't like change. Of course now I have no idea what he looks like without one. People say I look like him. Before the beard obviously.

Growing up he was everything I needed him to be. He was and still is my problem solver. And if he couldn't solve it using logic and experience he bought a book about it. He was the pre-1990s embodiment of Googling. It wasn't as immediate an answer but it was usually more reliable than wikipedia.

My brother and I had a turbulent relationship as pre-teens and teenagers. Dad stepped in on numerous occasions to help solve our arguments. He once made us write a contract to ensure we didn't go into each other's room, and he helped my brother make a pressure sensitive electronic burglar alarm. That makes it sound like it was definitely me that was a nightmare, but I was training to be a spy at the time and I'm fairly confident he had actually bought me the book (A Spy's Guidebook).

I spent a lot of time in my childhood complaining I couldn't sleep. My Dad let me sleep on the floor, or the wrong way up. He once made me a tunnel tent by tucking a sheet over my 1980s padded headboard. The man was a saint.

We had wonderful experience filled holidays and days out. On our numerous walks in the woods and bracken whoever was with Dad always lagged behind because he was showing us how to drink nettle flower juice or looking at toadstools. Which was ironic because when we got lost we always expected him to go in front and walk very quickly to get the car and bring it to us. You see, problem solver. Even if it was our suggestion.

As I got older he became my personal taxi driver and later my handyman. He must have put the same shelves up at least five times.

He tried to prepare me for life. He did the lions share of teaching me and my brother to drive. He must have nerves of steel.

Before I went to university he showed me how to change a tyre. In twenty years I've only needed that information once, and on that occasion I thought I'd run out of petrol, drove on the rims and then got a man in the garage to change the tyre. Which is only a reflection on me, not Dad's teaching ability.

I drive him a bit mad sometimes I'm sure. My grasp of money is dubious despite his best accountant attempts at helping me. He is clever and thorough and logical. I am clever and emotional and more than occasionally overwhelmed by stuff. But I have never doubted for one moment that he is proud of me. I know without doubt he didn't need to look up how to do that. That's pure sheer natural Dadness.

Now I see him with my girls and things have changed a little. He still solves problems but due to Grandad status now spends much more time making up stories about hairdressing and discussing Swallows and Amazons. He is immensely popular and to quote Phoebe "he's old but he's still really fun". I need to teach that girl some tact.

A few years ago things got hard and Dad was ill. It was tough for him, and for us all of course. Thank goodness he is now well and still cluttering up my living room with the Guardian, rejecting French beans and matching me biscuit for biscuit when he visits.

So thank you Dad. For being marvellous up until now and for the marvellousness that is yet to come.

Saturday, 14 June 2014

Love is All

Well Wednesday night was an experience.

One of the many things I love about Sheffield is the fact that everything is covered. You like climbing? There's a festival. You like books? There's a festival. You are an entrepreneur? Yep there's a festival for that to. Music? Obviously. You like documentaries? Well here you go.

The main thing about Docfest is every year it makes me wish I was still a student. If I had no commitments I'd be volunteering without a doubt. To get in to see shows, be part of the adventure, and to get hold of one of those gorgeous yellow bags. But it's just not possible to commit what with spending most of my life dropping off, waiting for and collecting children of an evening/weekend.

So I just settle for going to the odd event and this year the only one I made it to was Love is All At Chatsworth. And odd it really was.

It sounded idyllic. A beautiful summers evening spent in a field in Chatsworth, eating a picnic, chatting with friends, listening to music then watching a film about love on screen. Aahh.

The main trouble was the music was hardly relaxing. Hot Soles played first, which we weren't expecting. Accomplished as they are they didn't really seem to sit right for a romantically titled evening. They are far more suited to a raucous stage at Tramlines.

Then the Everley Pregnant Brothers appeared. Everyone from Sheffield adores them. You just have to. They are funny and homegrown. Last time I saw them they were hilarious. But last time I'd had at least 4 pints, as had the rest of the audience. They are certainly not what I'd call romantic.

Obviously I'm missing the point. I imagine is wasn't about love but about the fact that the bands were from Sheffield. But there are tonnes of Sheffield bands who would have fitted the brief more. Although maybe not many who could fill a marquee.

In my view it was altogether a little strange.

The odd got odder as the chairs were put on the stage for a Q&A before the film. This is always the part I'm fascinated by. I was filled with hope again when a teenage hero of mine, Jeremy Hardy, stepped on stage. He was followed by two film makers and the force that is Richard Hawley. It should have been fascinating.

The next fifteen minutes was a car crash. Jeremy struggled to do his job and ask questions while the audience had moved onto that fourth pint and had stopped listening. I began to feel awkward as Richard Hawley angrily half answering questions while struggling with painkillers for his bad back. He asked for an ice cream and babbled about Margaret Thatcher. Then he swore dramatically and left the stage in what seemed to be, for want of a better word, a huff. Since I got home I've seen people call him a “legend” based on this performance. I'm clearly getting too old for all this.

On the upside the film was a joy. It was a series of archive footage, mostly in black and white, from films and footage through the ages. Funny, touching, and supported by the most wonderful soundtrack, I was genuinely moved. Of course it was also more than a bit misogynistic due to the eras represented, and there were a few too many shots of fireworks/bombs and rockets taking off, but overall it was a lovely film to see. And it included My Beautiful Launderette so I was reminded of my general adoration for Daniel Day Lewis. I must re-watch My Left Foot.

So the night ended on a high. But the whole experience was...well...odd.