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!