Monday, 31 October 2016


Well we are overrun with pumpkins and yet still haven't managed to salvage any to actually eat.

Of course this is the time of year for pumpkins. Plus biscuits, dressing up, craft, candles and lots and lots of sweets.

Corpse Bride
These are just a few things we have made, this time and in previous years. The witch was made by my mum - I can't knit much more than a scarf and even then I have to google how to cast off.
Death Eater - Probably Lucius Malfoy

I hope these pictures make you smile, or terrify you, whichever you prefer.


Well the Imaginarium event run by the University of Sheffield on Saturday was great. Umpteen engineering experiments engaged us for well over 2 hours and it was lovely to meet so many enthusiastic talented students. T was fascinated and inspired, quite full of sweets and rather wet.

The most successful experiment was friction testing T's fingers to trigger a spiderman climbing upwards. The marshmallow and strawberry lace DNA making, candyfloss eating, Skittle colour merging and chocolate breaking experiments meant she did pretty well on this one. And there was I about to get her to wash her hands first.

Once again we are so lucky to have these resources on our doorstep. A totally free event for kids demonstrating fascinating and fun engineering and showcasing the university. We even got to play with virtual reality building blocks and very expensive robots.

I'd recommend you keep your eyes peeled for another event - we certainly will be.

Monday, 17 October 2016

Divine Comedy

Sometimes you wonder whether a band you always loved will still be as good when you see them 20 years later.

Sometimes you shouldn't have worried.

Blissful voice, brilliant lyrics, bonkers costume changes, bizarre instruments, beautiful music. Plus extremely funny, but I can't think of word that means funny that begins with b.

The Divine Comedy were just wonderful on Saturday. Best gig in ages. Tragically I didn't get a photo of the admiral outfit.

Blimey the Foundry was hot though. Plus, I would like to see an enforced hat removal for audience members though because there was a point where a titfer made viewing a little tricky. Not Neil though, he can leave his hat on.

Friday, 14 October 2016


Sometimes to struggle not to get distracted at home. So far today, for example, I have made myself multiple cups of tea, surfed the internet, tidied up a bit and I even fell asleep on the sofa for an hour (in my defence I have a banging headache and am quite tired).

In order to focus my mind I thought I'd have yet another cup of tea, but this time in a cafe while reading my new book about poetry and making notes (so I look like I'm doing something important). The nearest cafe to me is Seraphins' on Abbeydale Road so I popped in and sat down with my cuppa.

For the next hour I drank tea, ate the most delicious salted caramel brownie probably in the world ever and pretended to read my book. I also had a chat with the owner about how to help the lady behind me remove a stuck ring and watched a video on You Tube.  I posted a photo of the delicious cake to Instagram and Twitter. A little boy arrived and distracted me further by being flipping cute and having a garbled toddler chat with me.

On the way out I was requested to give the little boy a fist bump which I did, with panache frankly.

The whole thing was extremely lovely. But not very conducive to me concentrating. I've decided if I want lovely food and drink I'll go to Seraphin's, but if I want to write poetry I may have to find a cafe with worse food, less customers and miserable staff.

Lady Chatterley's Lover

Wow. Well it's taken me three days to come round after Lady Chatterley's Lover at the Crucible. I've been to the theatre hundreds of times on my life and, while there was a very early play which memorably involved a brief bare bottom, I can't remember ever having seen much bare flesh on show before. I supposed I should have expected it knowing the plot, but, well, blimey.

About half way through the first act Lady Chatterley got naked. 'That's brave', I thought. Then the feminist in me started to grumble. Maybe this was going to be the sort of production where the leading lady gets her total kit off and the lovely Mellors just strides around with his top off looking rugged. Be careful what you wish for I'd say.

You know the plot of course and it was inevitably going to involve some sex. In fact several times before the characters actually introduced themselves to each other. Nothing says raw magnetism like a grubby gamekeeper hammering a chicken coup. It's no wonder she couldn't stop herself.

The first half ended and I think it's safe to say the audience, many of which were quite elderly ladies, had coped with the nudity and bonking exactly as you'd expect us to. With slightly nervous giggling and sideways glances at our friends. I had to have a second glass of wine.

The second half was when it became evident that I needn't have worried about naked inequality. Not only did we get to see both main characters totally starkers for a good half an hour but at one point they ran around the stage in a wide circle so every angle was covered, so to speak. It reminded me ever so slightly of the cartoon in the year 6 sex video, only without the peacock feather and quite a bit more jiggling.

At one point the couple sat on the floor (did I mention they were naked?) and placed a small flower in each other's pubic hair. Mellor's referred to his 'John Thomas' a few times and I quite lost all perspective and started to become fascinated with the minimal set instead.

I haven't read the book. This may have been the issue. Had I read it maybe I would have seen the flowers in pubic hair coming.

After the show I left a bit confused. The actors could clearly act. If they could act like that naked I'd quite like to see them in something wearing a duffle coat.

Unbelievably brave too. I can't imagine many roles call for unbridled naked passion on a Tuesday night in front of octogenarians. Surely there must be some kind of theatrical award they could get. Or maybe just the relief of being able to act with clothes on next time will be enough.

Monday, 10 October 2016

Bishops' House Autumn Fayre

Yesterday we submerged ourselves in Medieval life at the Bishops' House Autumn Fayre. 

I adore this museum which is remarkably still in tact and sits, in all it's Tudor glory, at the top of Meersbrook Park.

The house was rammed, not only with people, but with stalls and demonstrators of traditional crafts including the stunning Billigoat Designs stained glass and Poterie Des Pommiers who showed the girls how to throw a pot on a potters wheel, while they chatted about the pots they were making at school. We were equally fascinated by the spinners and very keen on the scones.

Outside P was rapt watching Robert Nicholson make wooden bowls, especially since he took time to explain the job of a Medieval turner. I was quite tempted to buy a bottle of 14.2% Pea Pod wine which apparently has the taste of prosecco - surely that's practically a health drink.

We thought the event would fill a couple of hours but we ended up staying for nearly four, watching the knights walloping each other with various weaponry, Boggarts Breakfast morris dancing, and the Beekeepers playing 16th century music in the dining room.

I am thrilled for all the volunteers that it was a beautiful Autumn day and the event was so well attended.

Hopefully this will become an annual event and will bring many more visitors around the museum.

I definitely think it deserved an entrance fee higher than £1.50, so we bought more cake, solely for their fundraising efforts you understand...

Monday, 3 October 2016

The DVDs

Ok so the time has come. My eldest daughter is officially old enough for school to teach her about puberty and sex.

I was pleasantly surprised when the school offered to show the DVD to parents before showing the children and I nearly didn't bother going to watch, being pretty confident that she knows and understands most of what will be discussed. But boy am I glad I did.

The first DVD was entitled "Girl Talk". It covered all the usual things: hormones, periods and a mention of snogging. I hadn't, however, expected to see the mighty band Cleopatra ("Comin' Atcha") presented as teenage peers for the children to relate to. Not least because I saw one of them on The Voice quite recently and I'm pretty sure she is now 34. Just to cement how cool and up to date it was the teenage girl who was casually talking about puberty exited her bedroom at one point revealing a poster of a member of the boy band Five. Someone who is now approximately 36.

Now I know that a lot of things don't change. Girls still hit puberty. Periods happen. Spots appear. At least they didn't mention sanitary products that come with loops and a suspender belt. But I'm pretty sure something filmed after 2010 would be a bit more engaging for a group of children who weren't even actually alive when Cleopatra and Five were in the charts.

I missed the Boy Talk DVD. I can only imagine it included members of Westlife talking about wet dreams and posters of Natalie Imbruglia.

Then came the biggy - the sex DVD. It began and I was unsurprised to find that the cast were dressed in large knitted jumpers and oversized specs.

So how would you begin a DVD about how babies are made? Perhaps you would set the tale at a housewarming party where two children play pranks on their family members like putting plastic flies into people's drinks. No? The story unfolding before our eyes was so bizarre the teacher actually took the DVD out to check it was the right one.

Apparently it was. My attention wandered and I clearly missed a crucial bit because the action segued into the two friends interviewing all the couples at the party to ask why they love each other. In one case they asked the pregnant family member why they had decided to have a baby and we saw them stroking each other's shoulders and snogging. It was like a fairly dull 1998 episode of Eastenders but without the acting.

So the gist, of course, is that when you find someone to love you will want to have sex with them. Clearly demonstrating this was a challenge so it cut to a line cartoon of a naked couple next to a bed. They looked like they loved each other, had a bit of a cuddle and then...the man chased the woman with a peacock feather.

Hold on. A peacock feather?! Yep a peacock feather.

I rather like the idea that at least two generations of children have been educated that a peacock feather is a vitally important part of a loving couple's sex life.

The video ended back at the party. We learnt that the pregnant lady was pregnant because she had had sex with her loving partner. We learnt that grandparents and parents are couples too and love each other very much, but I think the children will be pleased that the line of questioning stopped there. In the end everyone had a glass of pomagne and they cut a cake that looked like a house.

So my eldest has watched Girl Talk. She came home with questions about the menopause which I reassured her shouldn't be a worry any time soon. Tomorrow they get to watch the How Babies Are Made DVD -  I'm bracing myself for questions relating to 1990s fashion, housewarming parties and feathers.

Elephants and Drama

Yesterday was one of those mad days where I created a timeline of activities and the whole family rolled their eyes. We needed to finish the Sheffield Herd elephant hunt, attend the Fun Palace event at Sheffield Theatres, complete homework, clean out a rabbit hutch, and watch the fourth Harry Potter. It was going to be a stretch. But the best kind of Sunday's include unreasonable expectations, right?

We screeched to a metaphorical halt outside the Botanical Gardens two minutes after they opened and zapped three elephants inside twenty minutes (about 7 mpe - minutes per elephant). I even let them stop to collect conkers which wasn't on the plan.

A frantic u-turn (not really) and we zoomed (at 20mph) into John Lewis car park, running through the store stopping only to look at picture frames, bags and perfume. Thank goodness, we made it to Sheffield Theatres for the Fun Place weekend.

The event was really good, even though we ended up doing a hoedown within 2 minutes of entering. I held hands with a man  I'd never met (and a number of very small girls and my own two bigger ones) and pretended the whole thing wasn't embarrassing at all. I also pretended I wasn't hideously out of breath.

After that the girls made a planet and star to go on the space artwork that will be displayed in the theatre, chucked balls at tin cans and hoops at cacti, and drew on the windows.

My favourite bit by far was the theatre tour where we were taken behind the scenes and I got to stand next to a garment of clothing worn by Kenneth Branagh - the girls didn't understand what I was wittering on about. I have never seen so many costumes, shoes and bags in my life. If Ken's costume wasn't enough to send me wappy imagine how I felt about there being entire boxes marked "espadrilles".

We saw the unglamorous section under the stage and heard about the theatre's history and resident ghosts. I even got to revisit the room where I spoke to the registrar on my wedding day which I'd forgotten all about. Plus Paul got to go into the girls toilets to look at the windows which was a first for him.

We could have done so much more. I fancied having special effects makeup and doing the drama workshop but the elephants were calling us unfortunately. The kids did fit in a quick tightrope walk on the way out but strangely the adults didn't have time for a custard pie in the face.

Upping the pace again we got back to the car and had our sights set on the final two elephants. At Hillsborough park we found that a)the elephant was in a walled garden that's closed on Sundays and b)it wasn't even there because they'd removed it already. We cheated and managed to fool the app into thinking we'd seen it.

Finally, Our Cow Molly. We'd waited until the end for this one in order to fully appreciate the free ice cream and flake. I imagined taking the final elephant picture with the girls looking triumphant and us all feeling on top of the world.

The elephant was not obvious. We walked through the farm. The elephant was still not obvious. We walked round the back into an area that we clearly weren't really supposed to be in, guarded by two angry geese. We had to accept the fact that the elephant had gone.

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It was hard for me but I was brave and accepted the stark reality that I was not to complete the elephant hunt properly. But then to be fair there had been other issues early on. I was, for example, supposed to take the children with me on the hunt, but on one occasion I nipped past an elephant on a working day at Crystal Peaks. I also got the last little ones in my lunch hour having raced through town to get to Atkinsons like some kind of old, overweight ginger Anneka Rice. So I can't really be an elephant purist.

When we cheated and fooled the app once more to log our 58th invisible elephant there were no fireworks but there was a free ice cream.
Seen very fast without the children in my lunch hour

My sense of completion may have been a little shonky but we had completed the challenge and the ice cream was epic.