Tag Archives: Activities For Toddlers

What does Father Christmas eat for breakfast? Weeto-ho-hos. (Sorry.)

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Forget personality types – this is all I want to know right now: are you a short-and-sweet Christmas person, or a tree-up-in-November person?

Mostly I like to keep my Christmas in December. I think it’s more magical when it’s extra-concentrated. Like condensed milk straight from the tin (YES). That is, until we got an invitation to have breakfast with Father Christmas at Wyevale Garden Centre last Saturday. At the end of November. But it was breakfast with Father Christmas! How could we refuse?

Of course, breakfast meant quite an early start. When we arrived at our local Sherfield-on-Loddon branch, minutes after it opened and with no other cars in the car park, we wondered at first whether we’d arrived in the right place. Awkwardly we shuffled through deserted aisles of greenery and scented candles, watching nodding Father Christmasses and tiny battery-powered trains moving eerily for an audience of no one.

‘This is, um, weird’, Tim whispered to me, while the boys tried to warm their hands on a pretend fire. It sort of was.

Then, huzzah, it turned out that we were in the right place after all. Elf-ladies ushered us and a few other families into the restaurant area, where we found a gorgeous Christmassy table laid up for us. H and T had name badges and colouring mats waiting for them, and there were crackers to pull and photo props to pose with (which they loved).

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Barely were our comedy moustaches in place when the cooked breakfasts arrived. The boys recently decided that bacon is their favourite food item in the whole world (same, guys, same), so they were hilariously excited. The staff were lovely, coming to check on us frequently and refilling our giant hot chocolates whenever we looked around.

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After breakfast came snowman cookies to decorate, with sprinkles, marshmallows and little tubes of icing. H and T were already beside themselves by this point, so got stuck in and really enjoyed it. Bacon, chocolate, marshmallows, royal icing, Elton John’s majestic ‘Step Into Christmas’ bouncing along in the background: check. ENTER SANTA.

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I am sorry to tell you, if you’re new to this parenting lark, that Christmas is where you become a wobbly sap of a human being. This is the first year both boys have been old enough to properly ‘get’ the Father Christmas thing, and it’s already melting the ice around my curmudgeonly heart. They gathered the children all together on the carpet and made them shout for Santa and, oh, oh. Look at their faces.

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Spoiler alert: he arrived.

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The lovely thing was that after he greeted all of them together, everyone went back to their tables and each family got some time to themselves: a little chat with Father Christmas, lots of photo time, and then their present (which was included in the ticket, huzzah). When it came to our turn, T whispered frantically ‘I want to show Santa my cookie!’ – then, alas, ran so hard with the plate in his hands that he dropped the cookie and broke it…twice. But Father Christmas soon cheered him up. It was ADORABLE. Is it always like this, parents?! Am I going to cry every December from now on?

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Once we’d waved goodbye to Santa, we had loads of time and space to finish eating and drinking, (re)decorating broken cookies and gathering up our things. We saved the presents to open in the car and they both loved them. Then we got to go home, still well before lunchtime, and huddle up together on the sofa all day. It felt like such a treat.

I don’t know if Father Christmas is a really central part of the festivities for you, but for me he’s never really been the lynchpin of the whole thing. My favourite parts of December tend to be Christmas trees, carols, food, nativities – though I don’t know whether that’s the adult in me talking now. This year, suddenly, I am in love with it; every little bit of it. They were so utterly thrilled by the experience that it set our December off beautifully. Even if it was still in late November. Bah (un)humbug.

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Disclosure: we were invited to try Breakfast with Father Christmas, which was jolly lovely of Wyevale Garden Centres, but (as the photos show, I hope) all the festive glee was ours. They also do a Tea with Father Christmas, if early mornings and bacon aren’t your thing. You can look up the whole schedule for December here. We’re definitely going again next year!

Wild things

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Welcome to the danger zone, where your kids are old enough to remember what you’re doing.

I always feel like we get a bit of a free pass for the first couple of years – it’s not actually a free pass, of course, but as you cry through their injections and fail to lovingly home-make their pureed food, at least you can console yourself with the thought that they won’t remember it later. Not so now. Their long-term memory cells are steaming away. We are building a childhood, between us.

There’s nothing like knowing that your children will talk about your foibles in their future therapy sessions to make you regret TOTALLY LOSING IT in a hotel room, one Spring Bank holiday when they were four and two. And, um, all the other times you totally lost it.

I hope they’ll also remember the good stuff. We try so hard. Sometimes it comes off alright.

This was a completely impromptu trip, that started on Friday night when we were giddy with weekend and bedtime and chocolate (always dangerous). One Holiday Inn booking later, we were off to the New Forest for a couple of days. The last time we went, we stayed in a magnificently weird horse-themed B&B and H looked like this.

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When we went back, I wondered why we’d left it so long. Just over an hour away, and so much of this.

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We had gorgeous, gentle sunshine on the first afternoon, and went off on a ramble through the forest. It felt wilder than our woods at home, with lots more to see. Two deer ran across the path and carried on grazing as we walked by, totally unafraid. Tim reached peak Dadness when he made two sailboats out of bark and leaves, and they set them going on the river. Then sunk them with stones. No, maybe that was peak Dadness.

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I would never in a million years think to do this. Dads are the best.

This boy. He walked four miles on both days with no complaining, getting excited about everything. ‘I thought that trail was astounding’, he said as we finished on Sunday afternoon. Then, after a pause: ‘I got that word from The Gruffalo‘.

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You can’t do the New Forest without New Forest ponies. This one was loving all the attention. Emboldened, H approached the next one when our backs were turned. And it tried to kick him in the head. SORRY ABOUT THAT, H’S THERAPIST.

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After a moderately chaotic night in the hotel, we went off to spend the second day in Portsmouth. If you’re ever wondering what to do with your Tesco Clubcard points, I can recommend times one thousand using them for a yearly pass to Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. We paid almost nothing for ours at Christmas, have been back three times since and done something completely different. Today we took the waterbus out to the submarine museum, and toured the HMS Alliance (plus a couple of smaller submarines too).

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I just cannot think of anything more suited to small children than a huge iron structure filled with levers, knobs and wheels they can play with to their heart’s content. We peered through giant periscopes, sat in pilot seats in front of blinking screens and dials, and were all in a perfect lather of excitement.

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I’m not saying the best bit was when T embraced a random woman’s thigh, thinking it was me. But it was pretty hilarious.

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After a quick jaunt round the Victory, because you always need a quick jaunt round the Victory, we followed our hearts to some Nutella Krispy Kremes, and then headed home. After we’d arrived and I’d unpacked the suitcase and made them dinner, it only then occurred to me that H is off school for the rest of the week. The New Forest, a giant submarine and no school run for a week. Never mind them: that feels like total joy to me.

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The manor house that sanity forgot

It's all fun and games until someone starts *trampling* the flowers

It’s all fun and games until someone starts *trampling* the flowers

I think we are probably the National Trust’s biggest fans. I have never in my life turned down the chance to ooh and ahh at some fancy tapestries. It doesn’t matter who lived there; I get a little vicarious thrill when I climb their staircases and imagine their footfalls on the carpet, however long ago.

We’ve been NT members for a few years, and love, love, love it. The boys and I visit our nearest places (Basildon and the Vyne, holla) probably once a fortnight at least. We never go into the houses now they’re old enough to enjoy swinging off priceless furniture and see a ‘do not climb’ notice as a personal affront. But the gardens are always large enough for a good roam around, and there are often secret trails and playgrounds too. If I’m feeling especially flash (or it’s freezing) we might pop into the tea room for hot chocolate and cake.

There are just not many places where I’m sure I can distract, entertain and manage them both by myself for an afternoon without any of us suffering a nervous breakdown. National Trust properties do it all splendidly. And there’s always cake.

Yesterday, with it being a Bank Holiday and a Daddy Holiday and everything, we decided to go a bit further afield. I’m so glad we did. We ended up at Waddesdon Manor, and frankly it was bonkers. You know it’s going to be good when the gates are all swanky with gold leaf, and a shuttle bus takes you from your car through rolling woodland to the main house.

It wasn’t really a house, either: it was a sprawling asymmetrical manor with aspirations of castledom and turrets stuck in places just for the heck of it. The gardens were genuinely, even-by-NT-standards, huge and lovely, with naked statues glamming it up round every corner. Some gardener had decided to make some giant birds out of flowers, and fair play to him. There was an aviary. There was a woodland trail. There was a huge playground built into a hill and covered by trees. It was amazing. We didn’t even get inside the house! I’m already agog about the possible state of the tapestries.

Look at it. Someone just went a bit mad, didn’t they?

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Suddenly my flowers shoved in pots seem a bit casual.

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The bird. Well, why not?

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Here are two boys plotting the best way to get in and ride the bird. *sigh*

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This turret was covered in a big lattice of trained ivy. As you do.

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Pretty flowers.

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Do you think they’d let us move in? Come on, they wouldn’t even notice.

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We ate a picnic next to an expansive carpet of flowers, made friends with the birds in the aviary, ran up and down like savages in the woodland playground, and walked till we were sore. It was fantastic. When can we move in?

UPDATE: someone has just informed me that it’s even better at Christmas; CAN YOU EVEN IMAGINE; does Saint Nicholas himself descend from turret fourteen dressed in a golden cape or what.

Our other favourite NT destinations: Basildon Park, the Vyne, West Green House Gardens, Cliveden, Mottisfont, basically any of this dreaminess in Dorset.

 

A baa-somely good day out

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I am sometimes guilty of trying to hurry my children into things they’re not ready for. (I don’t wish to point any fingers but, Roald Dahl Complete Works, I might just be looking at you.) We’ve visited so many farms and petting zoos since Henry was born, and all with the same result: animal terror, or animal indifference. No, I don’t want to feed them. No, I don’t want to stroke them. Let’s play in the playground instead.

This makes it all the sweeter when we realise he’s finally old enough to get excited about farm animals. We were lucky enough to be given a family day out to Odds Farm Park in High Wycombe this Saturday, and we all had a whale (sheep?) of a time. There were so many things to do that even Teddy, who isn’t keen on animals, was thrilled: a big barn with sheep, goats, rabbits and guinea pigs, animal shows, tractor rides, huge outdoor playgrounds, a big indoor soft play, go karts, mini electric tractors, and (during the weekends in October) pumpkin carving in time for Halloween. The best thing about all of this – as a person with tumbleweed hair – is that lots of it is indoors. Every time the rain appeared we retreated back inside to see the animals, or revisited the scary slides in the soft play area. This was bad for hair in another way, but it wasn’t wet.

Unless you had new wellies to try out. Then it was.

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Who do you think is enjoying themselves more here? It’s actually hard to say.

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SHEEP. We loved this. At other farms we’ve visited, the animals have been (understandably) skittish. These sheep are happy about everything: your camera, your face, the bag of food you’re holding, rainbows, kittens, brown paper packages, etc. Henry got right in there with hugs, and the sheep were all BRING IT ON, WE LOVE YOU.

Hiiiiiiiii.

Hiiiiiiiii.

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After the animals we had lunch in the cafe, and rioted in the soft play for a while. There were sections for bigger and smaller children, so both the boys had a lovely time. But the tractor ride was winner of the day. They were beside themselves.

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Even after all that, we had a lot of playground to cover. Sand! Water! Swings! Castles! Wouldn’t you love to be a playground designer? They have all the fun.

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I will be writing on the back of this photo ‘The Way You Were In 2014’, since it has them both to a T. Henry, wandering lonely as a cloud. Teddy, the beast.

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We visited the pumpkin tent just before going home. Jack Skellington says hello.

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There were lots of things we didn’t get to see, too. The place seems endless. Now, it’s not cheap, so I’d recommend planning a full day with packed lunch to get your money’s worth. And the loos could use a revamp. But the activities were so varied and so exciting that we’d love to go back again. Apart from anything else, we promised that sheep we’d let him know how his headshot turned out.

Odds Farm Park, Wooburn Green, High Wycombe. They were nice enough to give us a free family ticket, but our (enthusiastic) opinions are our own. I mean. Just look at that face.

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Henries were here

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Summer! Allow me to let you into a secret: when faced with sunshine, my top half converts it all super-efficiently into freckles and third-degree burns, while my bottom half simultaneously takes on a whiteness so blinding all light rays are reflected back into space. This is my superpower, and when I become a time traveller I will use it to be considered fashionable in all eras of history.

I know it’s no adamantium claws and accelerated healing, but.

We’ve spent as much time as possible outside this month. On one day, when the boys and I had driven out to our almost-new-neighbourhood to drop off some forms, we drove a little bit further out to The Vyne, in Sherborne St John. This is one of my all-time favourite National Trust places. Large gardens, a huge front lawn stacked with deckchairs, a lake, an adventure playground, a tea room, and the house – which was visited by several Henry Tudors and Jane Austen, AND has the ring that inspired Mr Tolkien to write the world’s manliest fantasy epic. The little chapel has medieval Flemish tiles, and the back corridor is hiding the biggest, oldest map of England I’ve ever seen. You need a torch to read it, it’s so gloriously faded and mouse-nibbled. They actually provide one (a torch, I mean, not a mouse).

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That morning we had a picnic lunch, with the boys in twin high chairs and me passing them sandwiches and yoghurt and mopping up spills at frantic speeds. Afterwards we spread a blanket on the grass, ‘wilaxed’ in deckchairs (ha!), poked busily around underneath trees, and used every bribery tool in the book to get Henry to leave the chickens alone and come home.

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Any gardeners know what this flower is called? It smelled amazing.

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Toddler picnics make me fervently wish for an extra pair of arms, but somehow I always do feel very relaxed at The Vyne. Maybe it’s the one ring.

The bottle-thrower in my head

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The other day I was hayfevered up to the max, and found myself in a quandary.

Oh gosh, Thursday, I texted Tim in the morning. If we go out the pollen will kill me, and if we stay in the boys will.

I mean, what is a girl to do?

When I just had Henry, we’d spend some days indoors, and most of the rest between a few familiar places. Now neither of those things are an option. Henry’s old enough to get bored if we go to the same places too often, and bored toddler + demented crawler is the stuff of fearful legend. Especially if we don’t leave the house at all. Great Scott. You know in How to Train Your Dragon, where Hiccup is leafing through the village Dragon Book, and the Night Fury page is ominously empty? That’s what a description of an indoor day would look like in my journal. Just fingernail scratches, and screams.

So – and let’s continue with the movie theme for a minute if we may – you know that scene in films where some unhinged character screeches ‘get out, GET OOOOOOUT!’ And then throws their cigarette/jewellery box/whiskey bottle at the offending guest? That’s what my head does around 10am every day. Breakfast, lovely. Bath, great. Clothes, uh-oh, here comes the whiskey bottle yes here it comes GET OUT GET OUT GET OOOOOOOUT.

I scramble for supplies and we get the heck outta Dodge before another jewellery box crashes around our ears.

Henry calls our morning trips ‘adbentures’. There is nothing that makes you feel more like the Winner of Everything than helping two tiny energetic people have a nice time in an unfamiliar place, and I really kind of love it. But there are two problems, going adbenturing. One, you’re much more likely [read: certain] to get the pushchair stuck or run out of hands when there’s only one of you. And two, I am absolutely awful at predicting the weather.

Here’s the week that was, and the weather-inappropriate things we wore.

Monday: playdate to Mapledurham lock and Purley Park. I dressed the boys in summer clothes, and we froze. Also, cattle grids and pushchairs are unmixy items.

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Tuesday: museum date in Reading Town Hall. Remembering the previous day, we all wore long sleeves. And boiled.

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Wednesday: investigation into the Roman walls at Silchester. I tried to be cautious, and we wore shorts with long sleeves. And boiled, and the path was VERY unsuitable for pushchairs, so I half-carried it for two miles. TEDDY IS NOT LIGHT, FYI.

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Thursday: Caversham park by the river. Ho ho, I thought, looking at the overcast sky. You don’t fool me. Short sleeves and shorts today. And we froze.

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Friday: Rhymetime and library, and it looked like rain. Long sleeves. You know what happened. *wipes sweat from everywhere, shakily stuffs chocolate in mouth*

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Still. New house this summer (we hope we hope) and nursery for Henry after that. I slow down when we’re on the verge of something new, wondering how much I really want it. While we’re here waiting, on the verge, I can’t think of a better thing to do than adbenture, on and on till we get to September and something entirely different.

Museums I have known and sprinted in, by H. J.

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I am a huge believer in kids and museums. Firstly, because I love museums, and if you can’t impose your likes and dislikes on your children while they’re too young to roll their eyes, well, when can you, eh? Secondly, because most of them are free, so I can buy us cake on the way out instead if we’ve got any spare change. And thirdly, because they’re only going to learn appropriate public behaviour if they get a chance to practice. I am as big a fan of soft play as the next rained-indoors mother, but let’s face it: all they learn there is survival of the fittest. It’s like a germy Lord of the Flies.

We do museums in London whenever we get chance – the ‘dinosaur you-seeum’ being our personal favourite, of course – but it’s not quite close enough to go often. But Reading has two jewels in its crown for pre-schoolers, and they’re only a short walkdrive away. The Museum of English Rural Life is a dream come true for transport-obsessed toddlers, and I’ve written about that one here. Today, we went to the other: Reading Museum, in the town hall, a gorgeous old redbrick building near the station.

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Every time we come here, I want to text everyone I know with children afterwards. It’s fantastic. The collection is quite small, and as random as anything: Reading historical artefacts on the ground floor, from the medieval abbey onwards; then a complete, full-sized replica of the Bayeux Tapestry on the first floor (more about this later); then art, stuffed animals and a Victorian schoolroom at the top. The best part, though, is the backpacks. Toddler-sized and colour-coded, you choose one you haven’t used before and take out the treasures inside one by one. Then there’s a question or quest attached to each item. Since Henry’s hobbies include backpack wearing and getting new toys, you can imagine how he feels about it.

Today we started with a brick, and found a wall of magnetic bricks to make patterns (like several redbrick buildings in Reading). We looked at tiny medieval people in glass cases, and listened to some plainsong from the monks.

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Then we had a toy horse – oh, the joy! – and looked over the BayFaux Tapestry to find horses in battle, and horses riding in boats. Can we just take a minute to talk about this? A determined Victorian embroiderer, Elizabeth Wardle, decided that Britain should have its own copy, and engaged her Leek Embroidery Society (yes!) to make an exact copy. It was completed by thirty-five women in just over a year, and they worked from Elizabeth’s memory and from colour photographs at the V&A. This is a brilliantly batty thing to do. Did you need any further proof that the Victorians were happily bonkers? It’s here.

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After that we had a squirrel to find in the stuffed animal room – which also comes with puzzles and colouring pencils – a set of jingle bells leading us to a thumb piano, and finally some binoculars to look at some art on high shelves.

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Henry was so engaged in finding things, rummaging in his bag for the next toy, and zipping up and down in the lift, that he didn’t have time to misbehave. Maybe excitement about Old Stuff will carry through into his adult life, and he’ll enjoy history as much as I do. Or maybe he won’t, and he’s just learning to look and ask questions and be excited about the world around him. I’ll take either option, to be honest, especially if it comes with a backpack.

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He always cries when we leave, and I think this is recommendation enough.

 

In like a lion, out like a lamb

And March came in with a beam.

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Of course it did. After the long, brown dreariness of January and February, in comes March with a spring in its step. It’s my favourite month, and not just because it crams in our anniversary, my birthday and mother’s day with more celebratory breakfasts than you can shake a stick at. March is the month of the purple crocus, crowding under any old scrubby tree it can think of. It comes blazing with the promise of brighter things.

We spent today altogether – O, miracle! – at Mottisfont Abbey and Gardens, in Hampshire. You drive down a long, straight Roman road just the other side of Winchester, past a quarry, through a village, blinded by sun and green. Since we came with wellies and pushchairs, we decided not to do the house today, but the gardens were a dream. Sometimes I feel like the National Trust designs these places with little boys in mind.

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Here’s a secret: one of the best things about having small children is that when you get to a walled garden path just begging to be a runway, you can buzz around like an aeroplane and no one stares [much].

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We decided to do the Meadow Walk, forgetting that now it would be an Underwater Walk. It was, but we sloshed on, fording the bog with the pushchair. Teddy made a valiant effort to stay asleep, and very nearly managed it. I remembered – again, too late – that my beloved Joules wellies have a hole in the bottom, and it might be time to find some more that I could love as much (NEVER). There were daffodils waiting on the other side.

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Look, I hate to brag, but Henry now says ‘en guarde!’ when he wishes to challenge you to a sword fight, and I kind of think it’s my finest motherhood achievement to date.

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(PS, if you think you know how to spell ‘en guarde’, but you’re not entirely sure and you don’t want to look stupid, don’t Google it. The first hit is a Wikipedia page called…well, you can look it up. Is this a Google joke?)

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One of the trees was called Madame Lemoine. Is this not an utterly perfect thing? Everything was budding and poking its way through grubby earth towards the sun, and I sympathised entirely. March is my favourite month, and you guys, we made it.

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Embarrassing crushes: city edition

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‘The thing is’, said Paul, over bread and olives at Carluccio’s, ‘in Manchester, everyone’s friendly and happy all the time. People talk to you on public transport. Look, there, see them singing happy birthday to that table? If this were Manchester, the whole restaurant would be singing. It’s very off-putting’.

He’s a barrister in London – also one of my favourite people – where such things aren’t done, at least not in rush hour, and his case in Manchester has made this obvious. You’re not supposed to chat in London, particularly on the Tube. It’s alright, though, because the streets can speak for themselves. I don’t want to get weird and say that they sing, or anything – but I’ve been popping in and out of London for ten years, and I still have the most ridiculous, dizzy enchantment with it. It’s a bit embarrassing. London was my first city crush, and it hasn’t faded at all. It’s like still being obsessed with Peter Andre, circa Mysterious Girl.

Lucky that two of my nicest friends live there (as well as several family members), so some Saturdays we get to drive to the nearest Underground station, while I play it cool and laugh uproariously hoping London will notice, and send over notes saying ‘London, do you like me, pls tick y/n’.

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If you were wondering what the best thing about having boys is, well, I’d say that dressing them up as Mischievous Scraps from the Twenties is a pretty strong contender.

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The Victorians, eh. They were just bonkers, weren’t they? Did you know that when the Natural History Museum was first established, Sir George Shaw (Keeper of Zoology) threatened to stamp on any shell that didn’t appear in the 12th Edition of Linnaeus’ Systema Naturae? Then some famous naturalist contributed his conch collection, and as it was carried across the courtyard the wind blew off all the labels. The collection never recovered, says Wikipedia. No kidding.

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Disney films come in especially handy at the Natural History Museum. You should have seen us identifying stuff in the fish section. We were ALL OVER IT.

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Lunch, Tube, museum, wandering. I do not need anything more than that for a blimming perfect day. My No. 1 city crush still has my heart. Does yours?

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Once, there was a boy

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One day I was in the Tate Modern (always a good beginning). I’ve forgotten why, but there didn’t have to be a reason: we were still in that carefree part with no children, but also quite a way into the part where I wanted them. We wandered into the gift shop downstairs, and found racks upon racks of brightly coloured picture books. They were in gorgeous, hold-your-breath colours, the sort you have to run your fingers over to properly appreciate. Intoxicating, especially then. I found an author I’d never seen before , who’d made a beautiful book full of skies and stars. And a boy, who loved them both. It started, ‘Once, there was a boy’. And the book was by Oliver Jeffers.

‘How to Catch A Star’ was one of the first picture books I bought, the beginning of a hopeful little library waiting for a boy I could read to. Then I got one. I sat him down in front of Oliver Jeffers far sooner than he could really appreciate. We’ve got the whole series now, all with hold-your-breath illustrations. Henry adores them. And I still get a touch of that old anticipation and longing, that shiver of skies and stars, every time I sit down and begin, ‘Ready? Once, there was a boy’.

So you can imagine how delighted we were to discover a new theatre production of ‘Up and Down’ by Ga Ga Theatre. They’re a new theatre company aiming to make theatre outings friendly and welcoming for children. So all their venues are pushchair-accessible, and the productions are forty-five minutes long without an interval. Ours was in a little independent cinema, about a minute from Notting Hill Gate Tube station. We arrived with Henry’s cousin and auntie to an enthusiastic welcome and a giant posterboard of the boy and his penguin, which we managed to knock over seven times in ten minutes. The theatre was one of those with huge, plush red seats and a gilded ceiling, crammed today with mothers and excitable kids. You don’t realise how much you worry about your pushchair getting stuck in a doorway or your toddler trying to sit on someone’s head until, suddenly, you don’t have to.

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He didn’t, in any case, because the show was completely delightful. Funny, inventive, and faithful to the whimsical spirit of the books. Two actors played the boy and the penguin, telling the story with the help of giant, cartoony props and Jeffers’ own illustrations moving on a screen behind. It took Henry about half the performance to realise that the people jumping on stage were pretending to be the characters, but he was enthralled from beginning to end. I had to tell him that ‘peggwin’ had gone home for his dinner just to get him out of there. I was afraid he’d park up next to the checkers board and never leave.

There’s something quite lovely about seeing a favourite book opened up so beautifully in front of you. Given half the chance I would have stepped inside it myself, tucked us in with a blanket and said ‘Alright. Ready? Once, there was a boy’. Then up and up we’d spin to skies, and stars, and everything in between.

‘Up and Down’, Ga Ga Theatre, various London venues till 3rd November.

Ga Ga Theatre kindly provided us with free tickets for today. But the opinions (and enthusiasm) are mine. Henry’s too. Even with the prospect of chicken nuggets before him, he wouldn’t stop talking long enough to eat them.

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