Wednesday, 30 September 2015

What I saw on the tube...

I always find it a bit odd when people shape balloons into animals. However, seeing this child on the tube holding this balloon was a new nadir in inappropriateness...

Friday, 25 September 2015

Funny Friday

"Mummy, what does this handle do?"

"It opens the window"



To friend that he bumped into in the park:

"I'm in charge!"

After playing together for 10 minutes, his friend collected his belongings and said: "Bye! We're going to the pub now!"


After hearing me talk about someone at work.

"What's your work collie's name, mummy?"


Sunday, 20 September 2015

My Sunday picture

What gorgeous weather! So instead of pounding out 3miles on the treadmill at the gym, I walked eight miles along the canal path yesterday!

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Beautiful Days 2015

McBaby here with my annual update on Beautiful Days "Hestabal" ['festival' -ed]. It seems like a while ago now, but we headed off in the van for our week in Devon, stopping off to meet my friend 'Polly' and her folks in their massive motorhome. Owing to the size of this vehicle, which was bigger than our house, we actually met at a local supermarket where we caught up with them and saw a lot of other fellow Levellers fans.

We pitched up at the site and mummy and daddy wrestled with a tent and a gazebo, at one point confusing the two which they blamed on each other. They got the tent up but were eager to start drinking so the gazebo ended up shoved back in its box and into the van. We went to get our wristbands (I had a tantrum about putting this on). Mummy then said I wasn't allowed a wristband, so of course, then I wanted to put it on.

The next day, we walked around and spent most of the day in the kids' field, before mummy and her friends went to see the Levellers. I slept through most of this set. To be fair though, I have seen them quite a few times for a child of my age.

Saturday was good fun and I spent most of the day dancing with my friends. I did have a massive tantrum about nothing and somehow managed to throw my friend's strawberries and cream all over the floor. She was heartbroken. I then went drumming while mummy had lunch with a famous folk performer and wouldn't shut up about it afterwards.

There was some sunshine on Sunday, mostly it rained and rained. I was naughty and had to be told off by mummy. It's hard to take her seriously though when she's reprimanding me while wearing a pink and comedy oversized glasses. Mummy and daddy then had a heart stopping moment when I said to Grandad, very slowly, "Grandad.". Which is true!

I absolutely loved Katzenjammer and kept running to the front and moshing. I loved Gogol Bordello too and saw the Levellers sing my three favourite songs; One Way, What a Beautiful Day and Fifteen Years. I perfected that thing that people do at gigs where they point and sing along.

We then went back to the van and decided there and then that we should go home rather than get stuck in the mud. There was a huge motorhome blocking the way out and mummy and daddy had a huge shouting match about it, because daddy didn't see it and said it would be easy to get out. We then came round the corner and daddy shouted: "there's a motorhome blocking the way!"

Our friends had to push us out, plus a lovely man who helped us. Thank you. Mummy was driving and had to keep going, so couldn't say thank you. The weekend went far too quickly and we've already put next year's date in the diary! 19th to 21st August 2016 - see you there!

Sunday, 6 September 2015

My Sunday picture 6.9.15

Amazing performance at the Royal Albert Hall last night by Yo Yo Ma performing all six of Bach's cello suites from memory. Simply breathtaking. On BBC4 on 10th September.

Silent Sunday 6.9.15

The Camel Trail

Thursday, 3 September 2015


Just making an eye appointment for myself in town and after turning around from the receptionist, found the McBaby wearing a pair of bright purple glasses.

"I'm Arfur Sleep"! he shouted.


Thursday, 27 August 2015

The A-Z of Beautiful Days 2015

We arrived back in the early hours of Sunday morning and since then, we’ve been unpacking the van, washing and reminiscing. BD always manages to thrill with its combination of friendliness, great music and laid back vibe.

Everyone’s festival experience is of course different, but here’s a run down of what we got up to.


A massive thank you to the Levellers for their annual shindig and for opening and closing the festival with two stand-out sets. Also, thanks to the man who helped push our camper out through the mud in the rain on Sunday night!


The Big Top – not just the setting for some memorable performances, such as Hannah Martin and Philip Henry, She Makes War and the Moulettes, but also a nice place to shelter from the downpours. Each time we hid in here, we made a fabulous musical discovery.


A Curious Life – great to get another go of seeing the film and also getting a Q&A with director Dunstan Bruce and Jeremy.


The fire-breathing dragon! My son spent hours hypnotised by this! And it provided a handy RV point. “See you by the dragon at 9pm!”


Eddi Reader – amazing voice, brilliant performance. Like being in a Paris chanson party.


Freeborn John – just amazing to see this again. Of course, John Lilburne was the first Leveller and a man whose name should be much more commonly known as it's to him more or less that we owe our human rights. The performance is peppered with big names (Maddy Prior, Kathryn Roberts, Sean Lakeman, the Levellers, Justin Sullivan from New Model Army) and was memorably signed off by Rev Hammer’s encouragement to “Vote Corbyn”!


Gnomes – lots of these dancing around the site in keeping with the This Garden theme. Not only that, there were some amazing costumes, including a family walking around with a massive snail, across the board to the people who were wearing compost bags as shirts. Amazing stuff.


Happy Mondays – 25 years! Can’t be!

Interesting costumes

I didn’t dress up at all. Hangs head in shame.


Jack Savoretti – lively set; not sure why I was so surprised by how much I enjoyed this.


Katzenjammer – what to say! An amazing female band who swap instruments, and are a four-woman party. Just loved their set – especially


What else could L be but the mighty, mighty Levellers.


Moulettes – their line-up seems to have changed but not their incredible musical virtuosity. Gosh they can rock a bassoon and a cello!

Next year’s dates: 19th -21st August!



The one that comes to mind is the one my little son wanted to do by a queue of people waiting to order their food!

Queue of washing for my washing machine and nowhere to dry it.

Rich Hall – we leapt into the Big Top to shelter from the rain just as this was starting. A woman then complained that she couldn’t see and made us move to an area “where there’s more room”. And why was there no room? Because no one else wanted to stand shin-deep in a puddle of muddy water, squelching loudly every time you tried to move your feet. It didn’t spoil this hilarious set though. Loved the song about Exeter and also the Bob Dylan-esque song about ….Bob Dylan..


She Makes War


Two Daft Monkeys – on the bandstand, missing a bassist, and playing their old stuff. Amazing. Apologies for the wobbles in my filming here!

Umbrellas. Needed particularly on Sunday.

Very muddy

Watching people manoeuvre around the site in the mud was like a homage to Dancing on Ice….

Wasps. I have to admit that I did laugh a bit when I saw a man dressed as a daffodil running away from a wasp. Which served me right and deservedly my karma was being stung by a wasp on my throat which provided a bit of a scary moment that nearly made me stop drinking cider.


Fire extinguisher. Let’s say no more about this. Lesson learned.


Why does it go so fast?


ZZZZZZZZZZZZZ – our little boy fell asleep seconds after the Levellers set saying he’d enjoyed the fireworks, One Way, What a Beautiful Day and ‘Three years old’ (his name for 15 years). I think we finally wore him out!

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Ahoy there me hearties!

It hasn't been in the news, but it's true. Newbury has been invaded by pirates!

The town has seen lots of the unwashed and unwelcome visitors mainly swarming the Kennet and Avon on Tuesdays and Wednesdays -we infiltrated their boat yesterday to see what they were up to.

The McBaby reluctantly let me pimp up one of his t-shirts so I got to work with a black felt tip and emblazoned a Jolly Roger onto it. He then let me tie a bandana around his head with surprisingly little fuss and even allowed me to draw on a villainous moustache and dot stubble on with an eyeliner pen.

The lack of eye patch was something that he felt so strongly about that he had a mini tantrum and I once again whipped out the eyeliner and drew one on. Which he then rubbed vigorously with his hands making him look like a dirty deck hand, which was kind of the look we were going for.

The final touch was the inflatable parrot that I needed to attach to his shoulder. Unfortunately I used safety pins in my rush, which turned a nice inflated parrot accessory into a dead parrot. Cue much "He's a stiff! Bereft of life, he rests in peace! If you hadn't nailed 'im to the perch 'e'd be pushing up the daisies! He's kicked the bucket, 'e's shuffled off 'is mortal coil, run down the curtain and joined the bleeding choir invisible!" from our fellow passengers.

Unfortunately this meant that I completely forgot about my own costume, a fact highlighted by the fabulous efforts made by our friends who joined us, looking highly piratic, but smart. Pleasingly, they were running a bit late, so had to run through Newbury dressed as pirates. Apparently, no-one batted an eyelid.

Once they had settled in as cabin boys, we set sail with a warning from the captain about getting fingers trapped between the sides of the canal and the sides of the boat. We headed west and every time there was a likely looking "gongoozler*, we leapt up out from our hiding places and gave them a hearty "aaaaaaaaaaaaaarrrrrrrr!"

We did that for an hour and a half and it was such good fun, it felt like 15 minutes. Not only that, but roaring at ghosts, looking for treasure and pulling ropes that were supposedly tied to the lock gates, and none of us realised it was raining.

It was tremendous fun and many thanks to the volunteers on the Kennet and Avon Canal for making a career in piracy look so appealing!

* Apparently there's a word for those people (me included) who take the time to stand by a canal and idly watch the goings-on. They're called 'gongoozlers' (verb "to gongoozle".) I'm assured it's not rude.

The Park Run

The McBaby loves to run. MrM and I don't. So we decided we'd take him to the Newbury Park Run at beautiful Greenham Common so that he could see how the proper runners do it.

Considering he's only three, he did very well and we were only lapped by handful of people. As someone pointed out; "He's running more kilometres than his age!"
I was astonished to see that the dedicated volunteers manning the finish line were still in situ when we crossed the line about an hour after everyone else and that the little man's picture was on FB when we got back - yikes.

With the next park run already hoving into view (it's every Saturday!) I've made a note of some points that might help the McBaby with his next event.

1. You can run the course much faster if you don't stop to examine every cow pat en route.

2. It's generally a good idea to run in the same direction as the rest of the runners.

3. Repeatedly shouting random instructions and other observations at your mother just uses up valuable puff.

4. Don't sprint to the start line and then refuse to run any further once the race starts.

5. If you can't see any other competitors, you're either in first place or in very, very last place.

6. If you're overtaken by a woman walking her dog, then it's probably best to step the pace up a bit.

7. Don't be distracted by the desire to pick up stones. And putting them in your pocket will just weigh you down.

8. If you are getting tired, don't just stop suddenly so that a man with a dog runs straight into your back.

9. Don't drag your feet so you end up kicking gravel into your mother's face.

10. Enjoy it! And don't sprint from the finish line to the car park - that's just rude.

Thursday, 6 August 2015

The circus

A few weeks ago, I noticed a post on FB by our nursery with fabulous pictures of their day learning circus skills. Spinning plates! Juggling! Diablos!

"How fabulous!" I thought, noting of course, that the McBaby was actually at home with me that day, so he and I had spent most of the day having a face-off about the swimming goggles while his classmates had been learning these crucial circus skills.

However, all was not lost as our local library held a similar event which we duly signed up for.

It was brilliant fun! Although there was a slight hiccup at the beginning with the circus man being late and me finding myself admonished by the librarian for thinking that the pictures might go on social media because she'd just presented me with a bit of paper saying they might go on social media.

Fortunately, the circus man turned up putting an end to our conversation *(which bizarrely wasn't the strangest conversation I heard that day, but more on that later).

He kicked off with showing the children how to juggle and at one point effortlessly balanced a chair on his chin. He then taught them how to juggle with coloured scarves instead of balls (or knives) - a brilliant idea which gave them extra seconds to get the technique.

They then balanced peacocks' feathers on their hands (and chins and feet and knees) before playing with diablos and spinning plates.

It was a great thing to watch and fantastically interactive, although I was quite interested to find that the children were more interested in shouting than learning and that the McBaby didn't stay as engaged for as long as I thought he would. We'll definitely try this again - it's great for children of all ages (and adults too - I certainly noticed that I wasn't the only bigger person sticking their tongue out trying to get their plate to stay spinning!)

Can't wait to try unicycling next!

*Ah yes, I was going to tell you about the conversation in the outdoor pool that I happened to overhear between a father and son.

Father: "If you swim from this line to the wall, I will buy you a sausage roll from Greggs."

Son: "Greggs! Could I have a cheese and onion pasty please?"

Father: "No, the sausage rolls are bigger and have more filling in them."

Son; "OK!"

Me: ??????


Some placenames are synonymous with tragedy - I happen to live in one. Likewise, Hiroshima brings to mind old footage of a massive white flash and a dust cloud and the untold human cost.

I turned up there with a friend on 12th September 2001 - the day after the 911 attacks, which brought an added dimension of humanity and sadness to the place. Of course, the most important landmark is the Genbaku dome - virtually the only building that wasn't eliminated by the atom bomb.

Originally it was built to promote industry in the area but somehow managed to withstand the blast and so is now the Peace Museum amid the Peace Park. The contents are a must-see. It's hugely moving and will make you think deeply about humanity and the futility of war. While you'll easily be persuaded that nuclear arms should never be used, you'll find there is no mention anywhere in the displays as to why the Americans did what they did.

But it's not all doom and gloom. Hiroshima - which means "wide island" is famously known for its "okonomiyaki" - a kind of exotic pancake cooked on a hot plate. It's mostly egg, bean sprouts (moyashi) and noodles of course served with cabbage. A lot of cabbage as I recall.

Trust me to start with the food!

Hiroshima Castle is also worth a visit - it's a replica of the castle destroyed in the war, and offers great views across the city.

However, the highlight of our trip was a visit to Miyajima, home to the famous and one of the most enduring images of Japan - the floating gate which is a UNESCO heritage site. The tide was out when we were there which meant we could walk right up to it, but also meant that it didn't look quite as magical as it usually does. It dates back to the 6th century but has only been open to "commoners" relatively recently, as it was believed that they would spoil the island's sacredness.

In fact, even now, it's so sacred that death or birth is not allowed near it - just a warning there to anyone who's pregnant or terminally ill!

So don't think of Hiroshima as a place that died in 1945, think of it as a beautiful living place that's worth a visit if you're heading to Japan. Gambatte!

To get a feel of what it was like to have witnessed the bomb, check out this utterly heartbreaking film:

Monday, 3 August 2015

The splinter

A splinter in the McBaby's foot! And it was my fault. I was wearing an oven glove and pretending to be a monster. As you do.

I remember saying "don't get splinters" but I didn't actually do anything about it. So as a direct result of my negligence, I had to get a 2cm splinter out of his foot while he repeatedly kicked me in the face and threatening to put me on the naughty step.

The moral of the story: wear shoes!

Friday, 24 July 2015


Last year at our town's Culturefest event, I was trying to get some publicity for an initiative that the organisation I was working on and was trying to attract the attention of the radio journalist. While I was doing this, a steward told me that I needed to move.

"You need to go and stand with the other Thai dancers over there," he said.

Nobody should be subjected to my dancing - of any variety! But this is typical of the annoying prejudices that happen because I look vaguely foreign. When I'm not a Thai dancer, I've been confused for a waitress in an Indian restaurant, a foreigner in my own hometown and even once a geisha.

However, this worked in my mum's favour last week when we were in Stratford. Queuing up to get into Shakespeare's birthplace, she was unexpectedly ushered in for free and couldn't understand why until she realised she'd been behind a group of Japanese tourists and staff had assumed she was with them.

Anyway, we were in Stratford meeting up with a couple of university friends and apart from a lovely ice-cream by the river, we spent most of the day in Stratford where we met by the best playground I've been to for ages!

There is a spacious playground for youngsters at the front, complete with boat and massive sandpit. Then there's a splashpool and a larger section including a zip wire for bigger children which my smaller son and his new friend loved. They didn't wear themselves out though - they then ran around the Lazy Cow Cafe in a back room - both wearing toy boxes on their heads before looping around the bandstand repeatedly. Now that's what tourists want to see. As my mum commented on the way home: "I remember going to Shakespeare's house about 20 years ago. It hasn't changed much."


With outdoor swimming happening at least once a day through the summer, I thought the time might be right to buy the McBaby some goggles, or "gubbles" as he calls them. Even though they're rubbish*, he wears them everywhere!

In the car. In bed. In the bath. Not in the swimming pool.

*There was a protective sticker on one eye; it came off to leave a massive stain that can't be removed.

Tuesday, 21 July 2015

Basildon Big Camp

The National Trust's 50 things to do before you're 11 3/4 booklet has been sitting in our car for a while, but thanks to a special weekend, the McBaby ticked off a number of the list.

So, the special weekend? It was called the Big Camp and was an unusual opportunity to camp outside a number of National Trust properties for the night - who wouldn't want to unzip their tent to be faced with the gorgeous Basildon Park mansion and its beautiful parkland?

We arrived at Basildon at 5pm, put up the tent (or watched MrM put up the tent), and then went on a walk around the property. The enthusiastic head gardener showed around the grounds, actively encouraging the smaller people to climb trees (tick), roll down a hill (tick), toast marshmallows on a fire and go on a bat walk.

How often do you get to sleep on the lawn of Basildon Park? We were allowed to use the bathroom inside and were treated to breakfast the next morning as part of the ticket price. We're hoping against hope that this becomes a yearly event!

Monday, 13 July 2015

Dreams...can come true.....

Being around when the McBaby wakes up means an early start. It's worth it though for the insight into what is going on in his head. In the last few days he's been waking up and shouting something and each time, it's been priceless:

Monday: Grandad took me to an elephant farm in America!

Tuesday: I want to eat Grandpa's vegetables

Wednesday: I was a clanger!

Thursday: Room on the Broom is on at the theatre!

Hopefully more to come.....

"Enjoy your day!"


Monday, 6 July 2015


Although the McBaby refused to wear the alarmingly heavy chainmail that was on display, we had a wonderful morning at Trerice!

The McBaby loved the imaginative dragon trail and of course we had to buy a dragon for him on the way out.

Trerice was owned by the Arundell family and dates back to the 1570s and has been in the hands of the National Trust since 1953, and in its ownership, the north wing that collapsed during a gales in the 1860s was restored.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Down and yurty

We've just had a few days of camping luxury style just up the road from our house!

There are two yurts run by Green Circle Hideaways on one of the best known organic farms in the country, Sheepdrove Organic Farm in the North Wessex Downs AONB.

We had one of two identical yurts and although electricity-free, we were thrilled with the luxuries inside.

We were given clear instructions on how to get there - necessary as you really are out in the wild here - I had no wifi or phone signal although I managed to get cold called while trying and trying to get hold of MrM to tell him where we were!

Upon arrival (we were much later than intended) we were greeted by friendly and helpful staff who showed us the way and took our belongings in a handcart. We were shown around the yurt and there was cake waiting!

The yurt was bigger than I'd anticipated and much brighter and lighter too thanks to two doors (mind your head!) and a large, clear opening at the top, covered but see-through, so you can see the stars from the bed.

The yurt is comfortable and has everything you need (except toilet, shower and electricity, but this is on hand just yards away in a beautiful boathouse overlooking the lake).

We were impressed that there were books, leaflets on local areas of interest and toys. Everything had been thought through - there were matches, tealights, even water.

We had a magical time enjoying the peace and quiet of the beautiful surroundings at Sheepdrove and walking in the gorgeous countryside; there are walks to nearby villages, a National Trust property and further afield, the White Horse at Uffington. It's such a tranquil spot for walking and just getting away from it all.

Can't recommend it highly enough and reckon I've been spoilt for normal camping!

Monday, 29 June 2015

Oh man!

I am exhausted! Ma mere and I looked after three little men over the weekend. One lot of naughtiness times three does not equal three times the energy, but 20x.

"Don't hit him in the face with your sword"

"Watch his toes!"

"Say sorry!"

"I'll turn the television off!"

All repeated ad infinitum.

They did play together without fighting some of the time though and it did make me laugh to see them learning from each other.

McNephew keeps saying "Oh man!" which McBaby copied. Wrongly. So he now exclaims: "old man!"

Saturday, 20 June 2015

AShdown House National Trust

When I lived in Paris, I barely gave the Eiffel Tower a second look; it’s always the way that when you live next to a well-known landmark, it loses its allure!

In the same way, I was always vaguely aware that Ashdown House wasn’t far away from us, but was never sure what it was exactly. As it has a rather famous tenant, it doesn’t tend to be open that often, but as it underwent a significant renovation two years ago and was open for tours every Saturday during the summer, I decided to take the McBaby to check it out.

I didn’t even know it was a 17th century hunting lodge built in 1662 by William, Earl of Craven (the same Craven family that lent their name to Craven Cottage, Craven A cigarettes and the Vine and Craven Hunt). There’s a short tour of the 400-year-old staircase and its paintings before a trip onto the roof which gives beautiful views of the parkland and shows off just why this is a great hunting lodge – while we were up there, we saw a herd of deer run right across the land. The tour guides were patient and informative, even if you bring a naughty three-year-old with you who just wants to run up and down the north rides rather than listen to the history behind this life-size doll house!

#ashdownhouse #nationaltrust