Cbeebies – it’s a love/hate thing…

From the sublime:

Sarah and Duck

To the ridiculous:

kate and mim mim

I know a lot of people have had some pretty harsh things to say about Postman Pat. The man is clearly an incompetent nerd. However as a piece of programming, the commissioners have gone right somewhere (see: my five year old glued to back to back episodes on the iPlayer). I know all about the secret chucklings at the mere mention of Mr Tumble’s spotty bag, – love him or hate him, he gets bums on seats. And when it comes to Topsy and Tim – well, just read this post and you’ll see that not everyone is as forgiving as me when it comes to annoyingly perky twins banging on about their big house move for SIX YEARS*.

But the latest addition to the schedule is a step too far even for me. I’m thinking of starting a petition to get Kate and Mim Mim banned from the box for good. I have not spoken about this to a single person but I know I can’t be alone in finding this the freakiest, most badly conceived idea ever. It follows the adventures of ‘feisty’ five year old Kate and her favourite toy bunny Mim Mim – essentially a cute teddy right up until the moment he morphs into a giant fricking weirdo with an accent which appears to be half Australian, half Dick Van Dyke circa Mary Poppins. Meanwhile her imaginary world (Mimiloo) appears to be housed by Pixar’s scariest alien rejects.

Take this example of a typical episode: “A Case of the Giggles” – in which the dynamic duo are tasked with finding a “Merry Berry Bush” in order to make it laugh (I kid you not – and this, my friends, is surely a prime candidate for Scott Mills’ Innuendo Bingo – poor old Mary Berry, it’s just a bit personal really, isn’t it?). (For anyone not familiar with Innuendo Bingo try this clip with Gerard Butler – you can thank me later):

But you know, it’s irrelevant what I think about it (or any of you discerning parents either for that matter). As long as the kids love it, it doesn’t matter if Mimiloo is actually my personal ‘Event Horizon’. Oh, but here’s the thing: my kids LOATHE it from the sincerest bottom of  their Postman Pat-, Peppa Pig-, Thomas the Tank-loving hearts. Respect to the munchkins.

On the other end of the Cbeebies spectrum, one of my all-time favourites has to be Sarah and Duck. What is not to love, I ask you, about a small girl who hangs with a duck, bakes a cake and gets baking tips from the cake itself, doesn’t appear to have parents but seems quite pally with a woman known only as ‘scarf lady’ (whose bag is pretty friendly too) and gets to know an animate umbrella who doesn’t like getting wet and has to borrow one of her wellies to get home? Christmas this year will be all about the Sarah and Duck merchandise – BBC Shop? I’ll be your bitch.

*that might possibly have been six months…

 

Love the Little Things Week 10

READ

I wish I could say that I’d had my head buried in a good book this week but unfortunately that is not the case. However I have had something lovely to read in the shape of JJ’s pre-school ‘transition to school’ report. According to this he is very sociable, not afraid to approach either other children or adults and initiate a conversation, and his favourite imaginative game (unbeknownst to me) is ‘Travel Agents’! I already know that he is capable of getting dressed and undressed unaided, going to the loo, etc. Essentially he is totally ready for the transition to school (we’re lucky because he turns 5 in September). Momentous events!

WATCHED

utopia

I was excited to discover that a second series of the cult classic ‘Utopia’ is being aired on Channel 4 (I’m already a week behind!). Finally, something on telly which credits it’s viewers with a brain whilst at the same time entertaining and shocking in equal measure. For the uninitiated (you need to watch the first series on catch up) it is essentially a conspiracy thriller which kicks in in Series 1 with three young people coming together through their love of cult comics and finding themselves suddenly unplugged from their day to day lives and on the run from a shadowy organisation known as ‘The Network’. To say any more would be a spoiler but it’s fabulously written and directed – think Tarantino – and I love the fact that the writer has, in the first episode of Series 2, tied in real life events from the 70s and even fictionalised a real event – to me, that’s clever and engaging writing. I warn you though, if you love rabbits and are easily upset, this may not be for you! 😉 Apparently this has been picked up by the Americans and is going to be re-made for the US by David Fincher (director of S7even and Fight Club) and written by Gone Girl writer Gillian Flynn – that shows just how good it is!

WORE

I’ve been on the lookout for a ‘statement’ necklace for a while having been suitably impressed by several Little Loves posts. Up to now I’ve mostly stuck to classic dainty silver chains with pretty, but unassuming charms and gemstones. But I like the big difference a statement piece can make to a simple outfit and I think it’s worth spending a bit of money on some nice ones and saving money on clothes by sticking to plain tees and tops.

new necklace

When I saw this one (M&S!) I was intrigued. I’m normally drawn to circles for some reason, and not straight lines, so I had to force myself to pick this up initially (I liked it for being so colourful). As soon as I held it up to myself I knew it was ‘the one’. It has an Aztec-y feel to it and I love the way the gold pieces at the bottom of each strand flash when they catch the light.

HEARD

I’ve had this song ‘Changes’ stuck in my head ever since hearing it during the World Cup – never heard of Faul or WAD AD or Pnau before but it’s such a catchy tune and it’s a great one to have as background music – which I guess is why it was chosen as the official song of the FIFA World Cup…

MADE

I didn’t have much free time for cooking this week but the circus party prep has been rolling on and I was very pleased with myself for designing and creating this little beauty from scratch:

Lion ball toss 2

It’s a Lion ball toss game – essentially you just have to see how many plastic balls (the ball pit variety) you can chuck in! I was going to put together a pass the parcel but seriously? What is that all about other than sucking up time and energy with endless shopping for the right prize, all the little token prizes in each layer and then wrapping the equivalent of about 15 presents?? Why do people do this??! Instead I have this lion game, I’ve shamelessly bought a parachute for some more fun activities, EJ has a circus big top tent as a pressie which will be taken along and I’ve got a ‘pin the nose on the clown’ too. Other than that they will have to entertain themselves and make do with party bag goodies!

I also knocked up a few of these:

moustached!

They are probably going to be absolutely destroyed by pre-schoolers in a matter of seconds but I’ve had fun making them and hopefully we might be able to catch a cheeky fun picture or two!

AND LASTLY…

I finally got the chance to visit my lovely cousin and her 6 week old baby this week! I have to admit, despite having two of my own, I’m not really a ‘little baby’ person – they tend to smell the fear on me and scream the second I come near them… On this occasion it was different – I don’t know if I’m more of an old hand having two, or if I just felt more comfortable as he is a member of my family but I loved having a cuddle with him and he even fell asleep on me (! Unheard of – even my own children never did that 🙂 ).

mother and child

Happy Friday Little Loves!

 

butwhymummywhy

I read some chick lit by accident!

I really can blame Amazon for this one as I chose to buy ‘The Husband’s Secret’ purely based on the recommendation that popped up on my Kindle as I finished reading ‘Gone Girl’ (by Gillian Flynn) – a tricksy psychological thriller which plays a clever game with the reader’s expectations. Amazon reliably informed me that based on this book, ‘The Husband’s Secret’ might be something I would also enjoy. As such I started reading the book with high hopes but it soon became apparent that I would have trouble getting motivated to keep returning to this story.

It revolves around three central characters – the elderly mother of a teenage girl who was murdered many years before (the crime unsolved); the domestic goddess wife of a well respected and goodlooking man; and another career woman who has grown up with an abnormally close relationship to her overweight cousin only for this cousin to lose lots of weight and attempt to start an affair with her husband. I kept hoping that there would be a clever twist or a spectacular plot development but, to be honest, the ‘secret’ is something you can guess almost immediately (you may have guessed already simply by reading my incredibly potted summary!), I found the characters and story extremely contrived and the denoument somewhat too neat and tidy. There was no emotional depth to the characters and the author has not attempted any clever word play or deeper insight into the human condition. There is no room for the reader to come to their own conclusions. I realise that that’s what chick lit is much of the time – a little bit of escapist nonsense with no real pretentions to high art – but compared to some of my favourite ‘lad lit’ from Nick Hornby, John O’Farrell and Tony Parsons this volume pales significantly in comparison.

Take O’Farrell’s “The Best a Man Can Get”. Now admittedly I read this book a long time ago but a good feeling about a book stays with you. The story centres around a young man who attempts to lead a double life – on the one hand he is living like a lazy student bum in a house-share with a load of mates doing whatever pleases him and having mammoth 14 hour sleep-filled nights. On the other, he is a married man with a family (including new baby) and thereby he has found the perfect way to duck out of any kind of responsibility when it comes to supporting his poor partner.

I read this book when I was young free and single myself and remember being thoroughly entertained – this is a book with laugh out loud moments – the main character is hyper-real – and come to think of it definitely has similarities with the protagonist in Hornby’s ‘About a Boy’. I am all set to re-read this as I’m fascinated to know whether it will still entertain me now I am a mother myself, and, knowing what I know about male-female relationships even when there are no honesty issues (see my ‘Before Midnight’ review) the very idea of a man doing this – well, its would be worse and less forgiveable than finding out your partner was having an affair to be honest.

So I guess what I’m saying is that I’m not against ‘switch your brain off at the door’ type fiction, but what I do need is a hook which has to be a bit stronger than just taking a stereotype (‘the domestic goddess’, ‘the emotionally retarded’, ‘the wronged wife’) and throwing in a few plot developments for them to deal with in their own less than perfect way. Or maybe all this says about me is that I like to be given the opportunity to laugh out loud…

Why ‘Before Midnight’ will resonate if you are a mother…

Before midnight poster

I should swiftly add that this film – the third in a trilogy which began with Before Sunrise and continued with Before Sunset, can be seen as relatively balanced in how it approaches both how men see women and how women perceive men within a relationship.

The essence of these films is a couple, played by Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke, meandering through some beautiful settings and essentially chatting. Not much more to it than that, and yet the conversations they have are so well drawn and fascinating, and, certainly in Before Midnight (its been a while since I watched the other two) they touch on universally recognised truisms about the minutiae of the human condition when it comes to long-term relationships – particularly where children play a part.

I have discussed this film with my sister and she explained the part where she cried with recognition of Julie Delpy’s brutally honest confession about how she felt she had fallen apart when her twins were born and her husband, a writer, essentially left her to it and went off on a book tour. She talks of him never being there, of both the emotional and physical difficulties of coping on your own with two babies.

For me, the kicker was her description of the day to day inequalities – of how the woman is generally the one who is expected – in the most unspoken way – to make the sacrifices, to lose herself in parenthood, to drop the career, to accept the fact that her pension will probably end up paying about 10p a year after X amount of years with little or no salary. She makes an impassioned speech to her partner, trying to make him understand that she resents the fact that, when the children were little, come bathtime or bedtime it was always her who had to be there no matter what, whilst he could skip out to a publisher’s event or drop the family time because writer’s inspiration had hit and he couldn’t afford to lose the moment. This, for me, perfectly sums up the female experience with such clarity and perception.

She walks a fine line between bowing out of the relationship – one in which she feels she has become a moveable object (he wants her to move from Paris to Chicago, leaving behind her dream job so that they can be closser to his son from a previous relationship), making a stand for feminism and equality, and recognising the fact that the love and bond between herself and her partner are true and that he is no different from a million other men and fathers except that he’s her lover and life partner. All her niggles can’t cancel out the fact that they were right together as a couple and, I guess that relationships are inevitably about compromise and acceptance.

A very thought provoking movie.

The Happiness Project: A Review

Happiness ProjectAs I’ve mentioned before, I became aware of this book back in January and the idea of it was so appealing that I felt compelled to buy a copy at the first opportunity, duly gravitating toward the self help section of Waterstones.

The idea apparently came to the author, Gretchen Rubin, whilst sitting on a bus one day and for no particular reason. She makes no secret of the fact that she and her family are comfortably off New York City dwellers. She has two daughters – one of about 7 and a one-year-old (at the time of the book was written), a good career as a writer (having previously trained and worked in the legal profession), a loving husband, good family ties, and no major health issues or illnesses to contend with (other than her husband’s Hepatitis C which is more of a future worry than a present concern).

On the face of it, it seems odd, perhaps a little self indulgent, to launch such a project when she appears to have no great need and no real obstacles to overcome, other than her own nature, but she addresses this criticism early on, explaining that it was really an exercise in being more grateful, being less snappy with loved ones, more contented with what she has in life, and she argues that “contemporary research shows that happy people are more altruistic, more productive, more helpful, more likeable, more creative, more resilient, more interested in others, friendlier and healthier. Happy people make better friends, colleagues and citizens”.

From this perhaps I would re-name the book “The Self-Improvement Project”, but packaging under the heading ‘happiness’ certainly hooks you in as a potential devotee because, lets face it, who doesn’t strive for happiness throughout their life? There’s certainly nothing new about that, as Rubin is well aware, quoting everyone from Aristotle to Benjamin Franklin to Samuel Johnson.

Rubin is one of those very earnest, highly educated, intellectual Americans – a high achiever, a resolution maker and at the same time full of self doubt and constantly evaluating and criticising her own nature (which I guess is justified in the context of this book). You get the feeling that she found it harder to lighten up and get silly with her children than to plough through several ‘memoirs of catastrophe’ – by that meaning biographies written by people diagnosed with terminal cancer and the like (an exercise in learning to view life with serenity and appreciate the joy of being alive and healthy).

I’m still not convinced that everything she does in the way of prostrating herself – for example her week of ‘extreme nice’ during which she allows her husband to get away with leaving all the hard work to her and never complaining – are not just an exercise in door-mattery (I admit I just made that word up but you get my meaning!).

But despite this criticism and taking on board the author’s earnest tone and the fact that several of her ‘revelations’ are things which struck me years ago and just common sense really (for example really listening to other peoples stories, humouring, not interrupting, encouraging and affirming are as much of a gift to others as any material offering, and the fact that giving of yourself, both time, money and spiritual support, will make you as happy as the person you are helping) I did take away a lot of interesting thoughts and ideas from this book. I am very mindful right now of her mantra ‘the days are long but the years are short’ with regards enjoying and appreciating my own adorable small children, and I am looking forward to de-cluttering my life somewhat and to reading “A Landing on the Sun” by Michael Frayn which is apparently a must-read on the subject of happiness (and anyway I love Frayn!).

I also took her advice on ‘spending out’ last week when I bought my new camera – sometimes, if you buy exactly the right thing, money can buy happiness and in the case of my camera, I know this will allow me to capture many happy memories, particularly while my children are so small, and it is also the potential start of a new hobby.

Trying new hobbies, joining social groups, identifying and owning the things which interest and intrigue you (the author herself starts up a Children’s Literature Reading Group despite agonising over the seeming lack of intellectual cast to the pursuit), all these things, as well as making resolutions and sticking with them, are goals and aspirations which I will take away with me from reading this book.

I may be a very different person to Rubin but she herself acknowledges that no two people will have the same happiness project, and, despite her desire to be unique she has to acknowledge that she has tapped into, not only the zeitgeist, but the zeitgeist of every generation in seizing upon the fundamental human desire for happiness.

I’ll leave you with two of my favourite TED talks on aspects of happiness and how to achieve it.

How to Buy Happiness
Mindfulness

Desert Island Movies

There’s a meme going around asking for people to list their desert island disc choice but, although I enjoy the music I enjoy (latest fave album Rudimental ‘Home’!) I’ve never thought of myself as a music buff of any type. I have however thought of myself as a film buff and used to religiously collect Empire magazine and devour every article – I knew every movie in pre-production, I took courses in both American and European cinema as part of my first degree and I was crushed when I found out that Empire did not take on work experience students (they might now but this was back in the early 90s!). I think its safe to say that ‘Film Critic’ would be my dream career!

At one point me and an equally movie obsessed friend used to go and see a film once a week (sometimes even an arthouse double bill) but since having children I have pretty much kissed this love of cinema goodbye (or at least au revoir) – the thought of wandering into a movie theatre and indulging in 2 or 3 hours of uninterrupted cinematic art/entertainment/culture, seems like a previously unrealised luxury!

For the time being I will content myself with sharing my top ten of all time:

  1. Pulp Fiction: One of the highlights of Tarantino’s career for me – so cleverly pieced together, out of sequence, with vivid characters, surprisingly  everyday banter and a secret at its heart (what was in the briefcase?) – I love a film (or any story) which gives the viewer or reader a denoument but at the same time leaves room for debate and interpretation – Pulp Fiction fits the bill.
  2. Groundhog Day: (which, incidentally, was yesterday – 2nd Feb!). Although I’m no great fan of insipid Andie Macdowell (probably the only disappointing casting choice in Four Weddings) Bill Murray is perfect here and I adore the fact that there is never any explanation for what his character experiences – it is just a supremely entertaining way of breaking a character down – to his lowest low – in order to reconstruct him from the ground up into a better man – and provides a surprisingly sweet, off beam romance. Unironically stands up to repeated viewings…
  3. Moulin Rouge: this one satisfies the musical-lover in me – I think Ewan Macgregor is a complete revelation as a singer and his version of Elton John’s ‘Your Song’ can still make my heart soar with the possibility of a love like that! There is a magic realism to the way in which this story is presented which almost turns it into an adult fairytale.
  4. Sideways – this is the kind of film I really go for – its small scale, almost theatrical, and on paper the story seems dry – two middle-aged men on a road trip through California wine country on a tasting tour – but the characters, the script and the bloody brilliant acting by Paul Giametti and Thomas Haden Church make this completely hilarious and heart warming at the same time.
  5. Sleeper: I had to pick one Woody Allen movie as, say what you will about the man, he is a cinematic genius and if ever there was a movie to make you snort a drink through your nose (is that a recommendation??!) then this is it.
  6. Gladiator: I’m not a war movie or ultra-violence kind of girl, but despite this being a film about the shocking and appalling practice of using slaves as fodder for ultra-violent entertainment by the Romans, the story is told in such a mesmerising way, and Russell Crowe just throws his charisma into overdrive – utterly transfixing me – I actually thought I was in love with Crowe until I saw The Whistle Blower – which just shows what a great actor he is.
  7. It’s a Wonderful Life: this is surely Christmas personified. The greatest feel good movie of all time.
  8. The Departed: I also had to pick a Scorcese movie because the man is another directorial legend. A lot of his more classic stuff like Taxi-Driver is just a bit too gritty for me but this one is just super clever – and, not to sound shallow, but what’s not to like about the Matt Damon/Leo di Caprio cat and mouse game here and Jack Nicholson’s brilliant turn as unhinged Irish-American mobster Frank Costello? One truly shocking moment subverts the viewer’s expectations but leaves you no less satisfied by the time the credits roll.
  9. Back to the Future: I think that I’ve mentioned before that I saw this film ten times at the cinema alone when I was a teenager. This is both a true cinematic classic, a beautiful piece of mainstream entertainment and a coming of age nostalgia flick for me.
  10. Amelie: I’ve just realised looking back through this list that I’m clearly a bit of an old romantic! But I like it quirky (ooer!) and Amelie certainly ticks that box! The voiceover is so adorable. I think the beauty of this for me is the injection of magic into what might otherwise be ordinary lives. Its also got a lovely gentle humour to it and after the masterpiece which was “Delicatessen” the director Jean-Pierre Jeunet fulfilled his potential here.

It was really hard to narrow this list down so I have to give an honourable mention to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (such an unusual way to explore the anatomy of a relationship from start to finish and the way in which our attitude to relationships make the human condition completely unique and utterly confounding); Fargo – couldn’t forget the Coen Brothers; and the 6th Sense – Shyamalan’s finest and the best bloody plot twist ever!

Linking up to PoCoLo over at Vevivos.com:

Post Comment Love

Time Management for Manic Mums (by Allison Mitchell): A review

time management for manic mums

So recently I thought – enough is enough, I’ve been trying to fit things in to my life which it just hasn’t felt like I have the time for, and yet every day I read other people’s blogs and wonder how on earth they manage to do so much, be so creative and juggle so many demands. OK, OK, of course I realise that people portray themselves with a little spin every now and again and we don’t always know the full story of where they find their little oasis of ‘me time’ (with small children – is it having the luxury of paid childcare without having to work too, or is it just children of a certain ‘manageable’ disposition? Is there such a thing?)…

Then I started thinking about being more accepting of my situation after reading this post by Judith over at Secrets of the Sandpit, and wondered if maybe I should get into meditation and ended up buying Mindfulness (for Dummies) (which is quite a shameful thing to admit to!). I haven’t got around to reading much of it yet, however at the same time as wondering about the benefits of cultivating a zen attitude to life (think the motherhood version of Kung Fu Panda and Yoda all rolled into one) , at the other end of the scale I realised that learning some ‘secrets’ of how to live a calmer more ordered life at a moment which could well be described as ‘time-poor’ would not be such a bad thing either, so I also invested in Time Management for Manic Mums by Allison Mitchell.

This one I made time for (it seemed more urgent than learning how to empty my mind somehow although, ironically, meditation is encouraged within this volume) and I have to say it took a bit of wading to get to the good stuff. The author spends a good few chapters asking us to examine our thought patterns in minute detail, even providing lists for us to fill in which confirm that, yes indeed, we are complete idiots who could not organise a piss up in a brewery. She also liberally sprinkles in random ‘Tip!’s which somehow seem a bit surplus to requirement (“Use the speed-dialling function on your phone”). Eventually though, she does provide some good guidance and solutions which include introducing a ‘Daily Diary’ and a ‘Destiny Diary’ into your life with a code for prioritising each item.

There is also a lot of talk of focusing on your goals and thinking positive, affirmative thoughts instead of negative ones. She argues that, whilst people often tend to believe that they are either ‘glass is half full’ or ‘glass is half empty’, anyone can train themselves to live in a more positive frame of mind and therefore, live a happier, more fulfilled life. I have to say that, if this is anything like remembering to do pelvic floor exercises, I’m not starting from the greatest position here with regards thought training – lets just say trampolining has been crossed off my to do list since giving birth…

Anyway I like her idea of making a 14-day meal plan with rolling menus and having a rolling schedule for annual or bi-annual stuff that gets easily forgotten or overlooked. I got a bit caught up in her advice which is clearly aimed at parents with older children but I like the fact that I can come back to this at a later date. I also agree that her idea of ‘living by lists’ is one I am pretty sympatico with – getting stuff out of your head and down on paper (whether it be ‘to do’s’, rants or just diarising [why am I uncomfortable with the way that last word sounds in my head?])  it always feels like a way of moving forwards unburdened by spaghetti brain.

I have to say I found her style at times to be somewhat patronising, it feels like the reader is being treated a bit like a dim kid who needs ‘cute’ metaphorical stories and anecdotes to fully understand what is, essentially, a simple case of writing lists and positive thinking. Focusing on goals, eliminating unneccessary time-wasting, overcoming procrastination and learning to delegate and make ‘use’ of other people’s time feature heavily.

On the whole I like the fact that reading this book has made me immediately sit down and create a list of things that need doing (or which I would like to do/accomplish/achieve) in 2014 – this is probably the right time to be getting one’s head in gear for forward planning a year in advance.

With that said I’m off to organise my Birthday celebration (in August!). So if nothing else thanks for the kick up the a**e Allison Mitchell!

An Autumnal getaway…

R, J & T on Crooklets

Its become a bit of a tradition within our family to take a little break around about the first week of October to celebrate the hubster’s birthday. Before we had the kids it was Portugal and Tenerife but this year abroad was not an option, so I undertook a little websearch to see if anything UK-based grabbed my interest. My main criteria was that wherever it be, it should be geared towards small children so I was thrilled to discover lots of wonderful reviews for Court Farm Holidays in North Cornwall. The cottages themselves are extremely child-friendly, with all the facilities you could hope for, including books and toys on request. Outside there are lots of ride-ons and play equipment and there are regular morning animal feedings down in the nextdoor field where there are two pigs, an alpaca, plus sheep, goats and chickens (although admittedly I couldn’t get JJ interested in going through the gate – the pigs were quite big and they would have scared me at that age too!). The complex also has a heated ‘indoor’ pool with a retractable cover for the summer. I was a bit disappointed in the pool experience though as JJ got a bit out of his depth straight away and lost confidence, whilst EJ experienced his first time in the water and didn’t like being in his inflatable ring at all so I had to try and swim a bit with him clinging onto me like a little cuddly (slightly concerned) limpet.

tamarotters

When we first arrived JJ was feeling a bit poorly and our first outing – to the Tamar Otter Sanctuary – was not as enjoyable as it could have been for this reason. He actually wanted to go back to the car and sleep rather than look around and I consequently missed a fair bit of what it had to offer although hubster took EJ off on the woodland walk and took some good photos of the wallabies and fallow deer that also live there.

It would seem that JJ’s fever then broke and he perked up on Day 2 when we decided on a trip to Padstow. Everyone knows Padstow is Rick Steinville so I was hoping for a sampling of his fare (the cheaper end of the scale – fish and chips!) but we managed to walk straight past the back of his restaurant and ended up in town proper (which, it has to be said, struck me as extremely dog-friendly – more dogs than kids!) and incredibly busy considering it was a Monday in October. We did have fish and chips which was nothing special, JJ persuaded me to buy him a fishing net on a stick and I then managed to visit the Chough Bakery, right on the quayside, which looked very familiar (turns out it featured in one of those Alex Polizzi business make-over programmes on the BBC a while back). I knew I wanted an authentic Cornish Pasty and had been disappointed with what I’d received elsewhere but this was the real deal. I ate it hours later for tea back at the cottage and it was delicious! Apparently they put a blob of Cornish clotted cream in the pastry which is their USP and it works as both the pastry and filling could not be faulted. Then I was gutted that I hadn’t bought more while I’d had the chance! I also had a delicious orange marscarpone ice cream in Padstow – this was the best food of the week by far so Padstow did live up to its foodie reputation in the end.

On Day 3 it was the hubster’s birthday. Unfortunately this was the only day of the week that it rained. JJ wanted to ride on a steam train (rapidly becoming a UK holiday tradition!) so we began the drive to Bodmin but looking at our leaflets we changed our minds and opted for the Lappa Valley Railway (not far from Newquay) which looked more child-friendly being more of an amusement park with three miniature trains to ride on plus other attractions. This turned out to be a bad idea. The other attractions were all outdoors (all bar one building – essentially a shed made to look a bit like a train – open to the elements at both ends with a few soft play cushions and ride ons for babies), two of the three trains were open air. It was raining. We’d paid over £30 so were a bit gutted overall but we made up for a bad start to the day by going back to the cottage (via the Golden Arches! What plebs!) and then into Bude town in the afternoon for a game of bowling.

IMG_1196

Day 4 was our best day by far. Everyone was feeling good, the sun was shining and we discovered The Big Sheep! This is a kind of children’s farm cum amusement park with bumpy tractor safari, ride on piggies (pulled by another tractor), Indian Running Duck show (they’re herded through a series of amusing obstacles by a sheepdog), sheep shearing, lamb feeding and sheep racing (with betting!). There is also a great indoor playzone there which both the boys loved – EJ was able to get out of his shackles and run about and JJ discovered two slides there which will make every other slide he ever comes across fade into insignificance in comparison – it was extreme sliding! In fact The Big Sheep was so good we took them up on their half-price offer and went back on our last day too!

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The other notable thing we did was go down to Crooklets Beach in Bude. It has to be said that the beaches in Cornwall are dramatic and beautiful and, with the tide out, rock pools emerged in the middle of a huge expanse of golden sand. This was the point at which I began to realise that, despite the use of a baby carrying rucksack which we’d hired from the cottages, the whole beach/rockpooling holiday experience is clearly one which shall have to wait for a later date. It just doesn’t work with a baby in tow although JJ would have loved to do a bit more of it. The only thing we actually caught was a little crab. Which it turns out was already dead!

On our last night we visited a pub which we had tried to dine at on our first night but been turned away from due to it being full. That time we’d ended up at a much less well frequented place which served decidedly mediocre food (a home-cooked or ready meal would have better to be honest!). This time round we remembered to book a table for the first place and had a much better meal. Unfortunately, it was not until we were halfway home on the A303 the following day that we realised we’d left EJ’s buggy in the pub! After initial panic we had a bit of a laugh about it and I suggested we have a T-shirt printed up for EJ saying “I left my wheels in Bude!”.

Overall a very successful family holiday, but I’m looking forward to returning to Cornwall when the boys are a little bit bigger so we can all let loose on the beach!

What parents want (in a blog post)

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Well, I’ve been at this now for about four months (blogging, not parenting). Phew. My initial mission statement included a pledge to be true to myself and write about things that remind me of who I am – both inside and outside of parenthood. Consequently I have written recently on the subject of (my take on) religion, ‘spirituality’ and alternative living arrangements, but these have been triggered initially by my experiences as a mother. Now, I know I’m still a newbie, so my readership is relatively low, but I’m starting to wonder about blogging within a niche. Its nice, its great to be a part of this great big ‘exclusive’ club, but its also really difficult finding anything new to say which isn’t really, properly personal (and therefore of not much interest to a big group of strangers who have a massive pool of similar blogs to choose from). Or its just same old same old: tantrums, weeing accidents, food fights, the deconstruction of the English language (eg, JJ’s hilarious rendering of ‘radioater’ – the device you go to for a bit of news and music when its a bit chilly outside).

I’ve been reading a fair few blog posts myself and finding that most of what I’m looking at is parent-related simply because I pick and choose from within this pool I find myself floating in. I’m having trouble extracting myself from my identity as a mother – as I said before, even my non-child related posts tend to end up being child related – I can’t help myself!

What my reading is teaching me though, is what other people (mostly parents) respond to. Top of the Tots100 right now: Edspire – the blog of a mother who lost one of her babies to SIDS. I’m sure this is very well written and heartfelt and a lot of people like a tearjerker, personally I’m more of a comedy than a tragedy kind of person. The Frugal Family always seems to do very well up there too and its an inspired idea to find yourself a niche within a niche – like GeekMummy too for that matter. There’s also a lot of parenting blogs which are written by people who are very crafty (as in “into a nice bit of crochet”, not “keen to devise an evil plan for world domination”), an example of which being Tea is the Answer. This kind of blog can be beautiful, generally very well designed, with lush, wonderfully arty photographs of craft projects and soft-focus poppets. Gorgeous, but just a little bit too humbling for someone who can barely sew on a button.

I have to admit that I tend to fight against reading the most popular blogs, favouring the little guy, the newbie, other people like me who might be struggling for a bit of recognition – a connection which those big, loud, successful bloggers probably don’t have time to attend to (too busy rushing off to the MAD Awards, or thanking the 6000 people who entered their ever-popular linky, no doubt).

At this point I have to hold my hand up and admit to my one reader (hi mum!) that I am a world class sufferer of GIGS (Grass is Greener Syndrome) and therefore, its probably wise for me to avoid looking at other people’s beautifully manicured lawns (bit like an alcoholic avoiding the pub).

But no, that’s not fair because the blogs I really love reading are brilliant in their own right – The Secret Divorcee (bit like reading the next installment in an engrossing novel), Listen, Watch, Read, Share  (another blog I admire for not trying to crowbar itself into a niche – lots of interesting thoughts, ideas and media reviews),  and my latest favourite, Raising Edgar (brilliantly hilarious take on all those old subjects related to the early stages of parenthood that you thought you could never return to again [and anyone (or two in this case) who would riff on a Coen Brothers movie (hopefully intentionally!) is alright in my book]). Interestingly my new blogging friend Cleopatra has just re-named and re-defined her parenting blog Cleopatra Says to hop out of the niche with Trying to Live Naturally – now focussing on her quest to reduce the old carbon footprint whilst living what sounds like an idyllic lifestyle in rural Spain.

Anyway one day maybe I’ll get to read someone else’s post genuinely giving me and mine the thumbs up and that would be a good day.

Cafe musing…

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Mum, JJ, EJ and I have just returned from the local swing park at King’s Field near Kingston upon Thames. It’s Sunday morning and while we were there we thought we’d pop into the cafe there (pictured behind EJ in the photo above). It is one of the Pistachios in the Park franchises which also sell a range of wooden toys.

While we were buying our drinks we noticed there was a new section in there aimed at parents with small children containing a paddling pool filled with balls, some story books, stickers and colouring books with crayons, children’s chairs and a freestanding bead table.  This is a lovely idea and JJ immediately wanted us to decamp into this area with our refreshments.

After we finished our drinks I started to put JJ’s sandals back on and noticed that the bottoms of his feet were black with dirt. Considering the fact that EJ had been putting balls and other bits and bobs in his mouth this worried me a little. It also gave me cause for concern regarding the hygiene and cleanliness in general in the food & drink prep area as much as anywhere else.

The people who work in there are very young and seem very concerned with their image and hanging out with the local youths who go down there for the skate park. In my experience they do not offer a friendly or welcoming service which is such a shame as I love cafes in parks and this one has so much potential.

I have now written a letter of concern to Pistachios through their website contact form so I’ll keep you posted on any feedback!