Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Little Tiger book review: Monster daycare and Owls that won't go to sleep.

We love books in our family and have bookcases in every room in the house - yes every room. I take the boys to the library and they choose many books each time and so we keep adding to the ones we have - albeit temporarily.  Then there are the books I get sent to review. The best part of writing this blog is being introduced to fantastic new products or brands. Little Tiger is one of these and when I was asked if I wanted to receive books to review I jumped at the chance. After all Blue Bear loves picture books and these are just lovely.

Stomp School is a book about 'daycare for the raucous kids of the world's most famous city- stomping monsters.'

It's a wondefully interactive story book with pages that fold out to make tall towers and irregular shaped pages that add interest and engagement with the story in a fresh and clever way.

Like all kids his age Blue Bear is obsessed with monsters so the story is just up his street and with the added bonus of a familiar setting and the unpredictability of the monsters it's great fun.

Blue Bear is a big fan of owls so when this next one arrived in the post he was absolutely delighted. 10, 9, 8... Owls up late is a beautiful book.

As well as featuring some lovely illustrations of the owls there are cut outs that enage the young reader. In the process of counting the owls different ones appear through strategically cut out pages and captivated Blue Bear from the very first page.

This story is a great countdown to bedtime and has a cast of many woodland animals including foxes and mice and a grey cat. It is simple for a young child to follow and uses the characters to reinforce the skill of counting at the end.

I love this book and as it's in hardback format I hope it will last a long time. Blue Bear has read it every night since we received it and has become a firm favourite.

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Little Tiger sent us these beautiful books to review 

Friday, 25 August 2017

Jumping on a giant bed makes for #appykids

Jumping on the bed was never allowed when I was a kid and the same applies in my home now I'm a parent. So you can imagine when Virgin TV invited us to jump on a giant bed to celebrate the launch of their new kids app me and Blue Bear hot footed it over to Kings Cross for the ultimate in forbidden fun. I'll be honest when I let the kids watch TV or play games I feel guilty, like it's something I shouldn't do. However, during the school holidays the only way I can cope with them being around so much is by keeping a stock of programmes and films for the boys on the Virgin TV box. That way I can pop on something for them to watch - together or separately - while I make a meal or tidy up or occasionally I might even sit and watch with them. That's fine as far as it goes, but we're not at home all the time and during journeys by car or train it's more challenging to keep them occupied.

Brown Bear uses a tablet to play games on and Blue Bear watches films on DVD when we're on the move. The Virgin TV Kids app is an ad-free environment where children aged 3-7 can watch a range of cartoons and TV shows as well as playing games or accessing bookes in one place wherever they are. Once downloaded shows are available to watch offline for 30 days so you can upload them before going on holiday or for long journeys. This would have been really great on our long drives to and from Cornwall. They already love shows like Peppa Pig and Scooby Doo and Brown Bear is a big fan of games now so there is plenty for him to do too. 

Children can set up their own personalised profiles with an avatar and nickname and the app stores the last three programmes watched so that they can access their favourite shows every time they use it. In order to keep safe while online you can set up parental controls so that they don't wander onto sites you don't approve. When they are in the car this is invaluable as I can't always check what they are doing. With the app I would have the peace of mind to let them explore and use the app freely knowing they can't access unsuitable content. 

The Virgin Kids TV app is available to download from Google Play and the Apple App Store and if you are already a Virgin TV customer on the Fun or Full House bundles you can download and use the app for free. 

Oh and by the way, jumping on a giant bed is every bit as fun as you imagine it's going to be. We loved it ! 

Disclosure: The lovely folks at Virgin TV invited us to try out the giant bed at King's Cross Square and paid expenses. 

Wednesday, 23 August 2017

Lily O'Brien's new Desserts Collection (shh, don't tell the boys).

Considering the name of this blog you would be surprised how few offers I get to review chocolate. In fact almost none. So when I was asked if I'd like to try the new Lily O'Brien's Dessert Collection I pretty much leapt to the keys to say "Yes please !" I first tried Lily O'Brien's in Dublin when Hubbie and I went for a long weekend. We went to a posh cafe for coffee (tea in my case) and some luxury chocolates. I savoured mine and even left half of each for him to try. He polished his chocolates off and looked very sheepish when I offered him mine to try. I still mention it occasionally - no that's not fair. It's not occasionally, I mention it often. 

With Mother-in-law and my Mum having birthdays close together we often get the similar presents - they like the same things anyway. Fancy chocolates are a popular choice of gift from the boys and we sometimes buy Lily O'Brien's chocolates from Waitrose. The new range - launched this month - is inspired by popular and much loved dessert recipes including Banoffee Pie, Hazelnut Torte, Key Lime Pie and Creme Brulee. I loved the passion fruit posset, raspberry infusion and key lime - I'm pretty sure they count towards your five a day too. Ok maybe not so much. I'm not a hazelnut fan so Hubbie can have those, but as petit fours these would work really well. Each one is a big flavour hit in a scrumptious mouthful and if I'm being honest far too nice to share. I'm not sure they'd make it as far as being a gift as I'd end up eating them. 

I loved Lily O'Brien's chocolates before and this collection just makes me love them even more. I've already hidden these from my lot so I can enjoy them all by myself. It's not like Hubbie would have shared them wtih me anyway is it ? See I told you I mention it all the time. 

Disclosure: the lovely folks at Lily O'Brien's sent me these scrumptious luxury chocolates to review. 

Sunday, 20 August 2017

How popcorn helps me talk to my boys about adoption

A recent development that has been great is the realisation that Blue Bear loves watching movies. He will sit and concentrate with his brother and pay close attention to the plot and characters and this is helping me with managing the long days of the school holidays. In fact this week I've got Blue Bear at home and Brown Bear at sports camp so I'll be taking Blue to the cinema for a morning screening just him and me. It's something we haven't done before so I'm looking forward to seeing what he makes of it. I always take popcorn and drinks from home and if he's really hungry afterwards we can go for lunch. I might even ask our lovely neighbour Jill if she wants to join us. 

When we got home from a busy weekend this afternoon I asked the boys if they fancied watching a film while I got their dinner. Blue Bear has been staying with Grandma and Grandpa and Brown Bear has been with my parents this weekend. They've both missed each other, but immediately that they see each other they argue and bicker. Perfectly normal for brothers I guess, but exhausting for me and Hubbie who rarely get child free time and when we do it's all too short-lived. I popped on Stuart Little for them and sort of watched it myself - which I don't usually do - and it inspired this post. 

I've mentioned before how open we are about adoption in our family and we have always answered truthfully when Brown Bear asks questions about it. With Blue Bear starting school in September I am guessing he will start to ask questions and be curious too. I find that movies are a great shorthand for the emotional topics that are difficult to talk about. Here are the top ones that have helped me talk about adoption, fostering and different families. 

Inside Out: is obviously about emotions - what with them being the central characters. However, it's also about friendship, life changes and how out of control children can feel when adults make difficult decisions that they cannot influence. Each time Brown Bear has watched it we have talked about different emotions and how he feels about things. It has given us a common a language to address difficult feelings he experiences and it's given me an 'in' to talk to him about them. 

Paddington: was the first movie that we really identified as being explicitly about adoption. When Paddington first arrives from Peru he's alone, frightened and the Brown family know very little about him. When Blue Bear arrived with us it was very similar and we talked about how hard it must have been for him to understand our home and habits when he wasn't used to us. Brown Bear also recognised that being the new one in a family is difficult and we talked about how he must have felt when Blue Bear came into his home and shared his family. 

Stuart Little: We only watched this today, but the themes of not fitting in and being different were really interesting. We talked about how George finds it hard to accept his new brother and while the adoption is a little simple and easy for my liking, the relationship between the brothers is the bit that works well for me. I like that they work towards loving each other and that Stuart even wins over the family cat Snowbell (who looks a lot like Neo so that works for us too).

Star Wars: Ok bear with me here, because it's an out there concept, but the family at the centre of the 'proper' Star Wars movies is a scruffy Nerf Herder, a princess, a trainee jedi and a wookie. The family that is thrown together in adversity. Luke is raised by his aunt and uncle and doesn't find out who his real father is and when he does it's not what he was hoping for. It's a messy situation all round, but I think it's a great metaphor for the complicated nature of families and nature vs nurture. Not a conversation that I'm planning to have with Blue Bear at this point, but useful to have in the locker for later. 

Annie: The Albert Finney version is great fun and the new version has an interesting take on the story that includes social media and technology. Annie's search for her 'real parents' and the doggedness with which she pursues the tiny bits of information she has is heartbreaking. The determination to find out anything she can is something I am prepared for when Blue Bear is older. Whatever we can tell him we will, but there are gaps that we may never be able to fill for him. Miss Hannigan may not be the best advert for fostering, but the cameraderie of the girls in her 'care' is amazing. Oh and I like the dog. 

Despicable Me: While it's not the central storyline, the take away for me in the first movie was how adoption isn't always straightforward or wholly positive. Gru adopts the girls for his own selfish motives and when he thinks he has lost them forever he realises how much he has grown to love them. The girls accept the crazy life they are adopted into complete with minions and plans for world domination and in turn they bring something to Gru's life that he didn't know he needed. The really profound part of this for me is seeing his mother develop a loving relationship with the girls which she didn't have with her own son. There's adoption breakdown, a genuine family relationship and fluffy unicorns. Honestly, what's not to love ?  

So those are my top few movies that helped me talk about adoption with Brown Bear. I'm sure there will be others that will appeal to Blue Bear as he will have different questions and probably responses that I'm not prepared for yet. I'm not sure what he's going to make of Boss Baby this week though. 

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

My life on TV

I'm a big fan of TV and watch far too much of it - ever since childhood. I used to watch the show that told you to 'switch off your TV and do something less boring instead' and stayed put until something genuinely less interesting was on. I sat through a lot of rubbish TV. As a result I know a lot of theme songs from shows and it's a handy skill to have for pub quizzes. The other thing I have learned from watching a lot of TV is that it's not often that art imitates life. I don't watch reality TV a a rule because I live reality and when I'm relaxing I want escapism. Not for me the banality of the partially true lives of inhabitants of Essex or Chelsea. However, there have been a few TV shows that have accurately depicted situations that have happened to me in real life. It's a bit freaky when that happens.

Eastenders: Now it's not a happy chapter of my life so I don't really go back there much. As I was having lunch with friends a while back I spoke about not remembering much of it in detail and one of my friends said, "Well PTSD will do that," and she has a point. The only really awful bit I ever really elaborate on is the one that I saw enacted dramatically by Little Mo when she stood up to her abusive husband Trevor. No I didn't attack my ex with an iron, but I did take it with me when I left - which was vindictive because I absolutely don't iron. It was pure spite on my part. I'm not proud of it, but to be honest it wasn't the worst thing I could have done. So we argued about petty things like the dish drainer and a plug stack and the friend who had come with me told me to just leave them. As I went to leave she went outside to wait by the van we had borrowed for the day and as I went to leave my ex decided to have his say about me leaving. This 6'4" man towered over me and threatened me. And I stood there - all 5' nothing of me - and said, "If you're going to hit me just get on with it. I've got things to do." He visibly shrank at my lack of fear - he just didn't know what to do. I told him he was a coward and a bully and I wasn't scared of him any more. He called the police and they sent two female officers who checked I was ok and ignored him completely. I left. No drama, no-one was hit by a household implement and there was no doof doof music. Still I did feel a moment of triumph when I saw Little Mo having an almost identical confrontation with her husband. It was then I felt proud of myself for standing up to him and leaving.

Monica and Chandler: There is very little about Friends that resembles reality. The ridiculous way that Rachel goes from unemployable spoilt, rich girl to successful fashionista in a very short space of time. Phoebe surviving on the money she makes as a masseur and terrible busker is just not believable on any level. And never forget that the whole Ross and Rachel relationship would just not occur in real life. He's a selfish, boring, petty man who offers absolutely nothing and she's already rich and doesn't struggle to meet good looking (straight) men, despite working in fashion - I know that's entirely realistic isn't it ? Anyway, the area in which I do see a similarity to my life is when Monica and Chandler have difficulty conceiving. It's one of the rare serious moments when Chandler tells Monica the bad news and they are heartbroken. On they day that Hubbie came home from his appointment he referenced this scene to soften the blow a bit. It kind of did. It also ensured I went into Monica mode and chose not to accept that there was nothing we could do. The rest is pretty well documented on this blog so I won't repeat myself.

Gavin and Stacey: There is a lot to love about this show. The fact that the families are named after serial killers is a stroke of genius. We watched an episode the other day where Pete shows off a hat that his wife Dawn bought him that bears the legend, "Pete Sutcliff loves golf." Stacey's mum even comments on how unfortunate it is that she goes from being a West to being a Shipman. Honestly if you don't find this stuff funny why are you even here ? So the point is pretty similar to the last one in that Gavin and Stacey are told they won't be able to have children. In one exchange they agree they will keep trying for a while and if nothing happens they will stop and think about other options. Stacey says, "It's sad isn't it ?" and every time I watch that scene it makes me cry. Yes it is very sad. When we were told that we were 'unlikley' to conceive we both sat in the reception of the fertility clinic and cried. I don't know how long we stayed there for, but it felt like a long time. On a much happier note, when we did find out that I was pregnant Hubbie exclaimed, "My balls work !" Just like Gavin does when they find out that Stacey is pregnant. I only did one test though - I didn't pee on a shoebox full of them.

Outnumbered: I never understood why people liked this show until I became a parent. Even then it wasn't until we had two of them. Ok, we're not strictly outnumbered as there are two of them and two of us, but as is pretty clear the cat is on their side - or he has recruited them to be honorary cats which is far more likely. So the main reason this show resonates with me is because Brown Bear is the spitting image of Ben. It has been evident since his curly hair kicked in and my sister even pointed it out. I suspect that Blue Bear is like Karen in that he is more considered and serious. Now I watch it and sympathise with Pete and Sue and their incessant attempts to keep ahead of their brood.

Miss Rabbit: Well this one is a joke that occured to Hubbie when it became clear that the character of Miss Rabbit from Peppa Pig does every job. It came about after I spoke about all the different jobs that I've done and he started to call me Miss Rabbit. It's a good call actually even though I'm not a helicopter pilot or a volunteer fire officer, but I have worked in a library. Anyway, Miss Rabbit has a pretty good work ethic and that's no bad thing is it ?

Curb Your Enthusiasm: We've been rewatching this show in preparation for the new series in October. It pains me to admit it, but I am really much more sympathetic towards Larry than I should be. Despite his selfish tendencies I honestly think he's more misunderstood than anything. I know he can appear to be a sociopath, but there is definitely an element of him being in the wrong place at the wrong time and not thinking before he speaks. I can identify with that.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Summer time and the living is easy (really ? for who ?)

We're past the midway point of the summer holidays and I'm seriously in need of some 'me time.' It's not like I spend every minute of the day with my boys, far from it, but keeping them busy and tiring them out enough to get them to sleep at night is a full time job. This week I've had them both in sports camps so that I could get the house in order. It's been my mission since I read the Marie Kondo book in January (an excellent gift from Hubbie) and I'm making great progress with baby things that were taking up loft space being sold and I'm sorting and donating clothes, shoes and various other items are going on ebay. I'm also taking the opportunity to get in some swimming and running and am taking part in a 5k this Sunday so I'm hoping my overall fitness has improved. The next few weeks are the ones where I've had to use more creativity to keep them occupied - at the cost of my liberty and possibly my sanity. So I've timetabled plenty of activities for them both.

Next week Blue Bear is at sports camp every day so I'll be spending time with Brown Bear one to one.

Monday we're taking it easy. A morning swim followed by breakfast. Maybe a lazy afternoon in front of the TV.

Tuesday he has a movie date with his 'girlfriend.' I know he's only 6 (nearly 7), but he and R have been an item since nursery. I think it's cute how they send each other little voice messages on whatsapp (on mine and her mum's phones of course) saying how much they are looking forward to it.

Wednesday he's going to take the car to the garage with Daddy and do 'boy stuff.' I think he's going to find it quite informative.

Thursday we're going to visit my lovely friend who works for an MP and I hope to take Brown Bear for a tour of the Palace of Westminster. He has loved Big Ben for years so I think he's going to  be excited being up close.

Friday is the first day of a music festival that me and Hubbie are going to so we're taking Brown Bear to my parents for the weekend and then dropping Blue Bear off at the in-laws.

Then we get a day off - yep me and Hubbie get to spend an entire day child free on Saturday !! And how are we spending it ? Well we're running a 5k together first thing. Don't even ask me why - it's his idea. Then we're going back for the second day of the music festival.

To be honest I think going back to work in September is going to be less logistically demanding than the holidays. All I need to do now is work out how to add all these skills to my CV.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

Song and dance and not a Womble in sight.

Going to the theatre is one of my favourite pastimes. I'm so lucky to live close to London so I used to go the West End theatres all the time. I still do sometimes and only the other week went to watch Hamlet with the amazing Andrew Scott (Moriarty). More often, though, I go to local theatres and last week I was delighted to be invited to the season preview for the New Wimbledon Theatre. As part of the ATG group of theatres they have some great shows coming up and I am looking forward to seeing some well known productions as well as some brand new ones such as the UK premiere of Tenderly The Rosemary Clooney musical. Of course the question that always gets asked is will George be there, but I guess with new baby twins he might just have his hands full. We were treated to a song from the show sung live by the leads and it was beautiful.

There was also an introduction to the upcoming production of Flashdance with Joanne Clifton - who I last saw in Thoroughly Modern Millie - and apparently the iconic water drop scene from the film is in the show for purists. We saw a preview of the rehearsals which looked pretty full on. I'm looking forward to seeing Cabaret starring Will Young and Louise Redknapp. It's been a while since I saw this show and I love the choregraphy and songs so much. It'll be interesting to see a fresh revival of a show that is so well known and loved. Another show that is well loved and very popular, while completely different, is Spamalot. I've seen it many times already and with a lot of different King Arthurs including the divine Tim Curry. This is a new production with a touring cast and as it's been a while since I last saw the show I'd like to see what they've done with it.

The other big show that is brand new is Cilla, based on the life of the Liverpudlian singer and TV presenter. We met the Lily Hayworth who was chosen to play Cilla in a nationwide search. I really enjoyed the TV show that this production is based on so it'll be good to see how this translates to the stage. It's a cracking season coming up and I haven't even mentioned the pantomime which features Al Murray as Jack and Clive Rowe as the dame in Jack and the Beanstalk.

Vintage posters from New Wimbledon Theatre: 

Before the launch event we were given a tour of theatre and the lovely Sherry showed us round and we learned so much about the beautiful theatre and the history of how it came to be built. We even learned that there was a turkish bath under the theatre for staff. I am so going to bore people with that tidbit in future ! A word of warning though, there are 104 steps to the very top of the theatre and no lift so be prepared for a bit of a hike. The views from the top are stunning and the ceiling is really worth a look. Not least as you will see the bit that used to open to let in air and let out smells back in the old days, but don't let me spoil the fun of hearing Sherry's stories. I can highly recommend a tour if you get a chance to go on one. They are held once a month - and you prebook here.

Stunning views of the theatre: 

Saturday, 5 August 2017

The smell of the greasepaint and the roar of the tiger

There are a few films that I will always watch when they're on TV - even though I've seen them many times already. The Wedding Singer is one of those rarities - a film that both me and Hubbie enjoy watching - and when I found out it was going to be a live show I wasn't sure if it would be a patch on the movie which is silly and funny and pretty much driven by star names. So it was a treat to see the show this week and find that the stage show is a great interpretation of a film I love.

Unfortunately a lack of babysitting meant we weren't able to see the show together, but I didn't let that stop me from going along. The show captures the '80s really well from costumes to music and the adverts running along the screen at the top of the stage are spot on. As an eighties kid I can vouch for the authenticity.

The leads are Jon Robyns from Avenue Q, Ray Quinn and Cassie Compton from X Factor ( I don't watch it so I had no idea who they were) and a guest appearance by Ruth Madoc as Grandma that will have you in stitches. The story is pretty much identical to the film so if you're a fan you will recognise it. There are a few small changes to accommodate the already extensive set with some super fast scene changes and clever touches like Glen's car and Robbie's revolving bed - which doesn't revolve.

Often when movies are staged as shows there is an unfair comparison between them, but this show is a fair approximation of the film that preceded it. The leads are likeable and the comic characters play well together. The only bum note for me was Linda. She is suitably evil, but the singing is so over the top that her volume pretty much drowns out any lyrics. The romance between Robbie and Julia is sweet and the wink wink nature of George's interactions with his bandmates are funny, but also a little sad.

If you want to see the show click here: The Wedding Singer

As you already know I am a huge fan of Kids Week - which takes place every August and has done since 1998. It has graduated to being a whole month hosted by the Society of London Theatre where children can go to the theatre for free or greatly reduced ticket prices. When you buy an adult ticket one child gets a free ticket and subsequent children go half price. A lot of shows take part in the scheme and some also do additional activities including puppetry workshops and author talks as well as behind the scenes tours. I promote Kids Week every year as it's such a great way to introduce children to the theatre, but also an affordable option to see some fantastic shows in the West End that you might not otherwise go to.

I've taken Brown Bear for years and he is an experienced theatre goer at the age of six. He can happily sit through a two hour show without fuss and I'm sure that taking him to see shows during Kids Week helped with this early on. One of the first shows I ever took him to see in the West End was The Tiger Who Came to Tea at the Lyric Theatre. He loved it very much and I'm delighted to be taking Blue Bear to see the same production at the Churchill next week. It's based on the much loved classic children's book about a little girl and her mother who are visited by a tiger who proceeds to eat everything in the kitchen. It is a simple story with a lovely singalong tone that captivates the attention of young children from the beginning. The tiger is brilliantly done and it's wonderful to hear the children's reactions when it appears on stage. I remember a 3 year old Brown Bear believing it was a tiger and I hope that Blue Bear will have the same willing suspension of disbelief when he sees the show too.

If you want to book tickets click here: The Tiger Who Came to Tea 

Disclosure: The lovely folks at the Churchill Theatre gave us comps for both shows in return for an honest review / preview. 

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Inter-generational japes and trips to Ikea

A programme last night has sparked animated conversations about the mutual benefits of older people and small children spending time together. In the TV documentary nursery children visited people in a care home. It's a social model that has been adopted in other countries where in some places nurseries have been located inside nursing homes so that the older residents spend time with the children every day. The thing about this that fascinates me is why anyone should be surprised by the outcomes of such an experiment.

I've had conversations recently with a number of people who are caring for elderly relatives / parents. The overriding issue they worry about is leaving an older person alone for fear they might fall or the cost of the care they need. The question I always ask is, "Is s/he happy ?" Older people experience all the emotions they always have, but for some reason they are treated as errant children for being angry or upset or for not wanting to 'join in.' You see loneliness is the one thing we feel so uncomfortable both talking about and dealing with. Equally when I suggested that my friend's parent might be feeling depressed (in as kind a way as possible I'm not a monster) I hoped it was helpful rather than another thing to feel guilty about not knowing. It's difficult to see our own parents changed or weakened by age. Taking responsibility for their happiness is even scarier.

When we first moved into this house Brown Bear was one year old and our retired neighbours P and J loved seeing him and watching him grow. They would invite us to play in their garden and enjoyed his company and P often commented with great surprise at the new developments in my boy's language or abilites. As P's cancer progressed and he spent more time in hospital we saw less of him, but he still looked forward to seeing Brown Bear and J would pass on that he'd raised a smile when he heard our boy chattering away. My greatest worry when P passed away was that J would be lonely. As it happened all of her friends and family rallied round and kept her busy with holidays, invitations to dinner and weekends away. This is still the case 5 years later.

We have a wonderful relationship with J and she is a self-styled, 'spare granny' to the boys and they fight over who will go to her house for a 'playdate.' Blue Bear goes in, takes off his shoes and plonks himself down on her armchair - he loves keeping her company. Brown Bear will usually take something to do, either a game or a book so he can read to her. For a time I worried that this was too much to ask of her, but then I noticed that she really enjoyed being with the boys. Some days we invite her to join us for a visit to the park or for lunch or even just a trip to Ikea. One thing I did notice was she wasn't hearing so well and she joked with me about it. I decided to mention it quietly to her daughter-in-law as I was getting worried and didn't want to cause concern, but thought it best they knew.

The thing about intergenerational socialising is how unforced it is. I have seen how the most curmudgeonly of old men (thinking of no ones father-in-law in particular *cough*) answer a toy phone when handed it by a small child. My boys regularly charm older people as they help me with the shopping and I will strike up a conversation with someone because they are talking to the boys. To be honest my friend's idea of opening up nurseries so that women can go in and hold babies to reduce stress starts to sound really sensible. That is if it wasn't so unethical and, you know, mad. Don't challenge me on why only women, it's not my idea I'm just sharing.

Being around young children has given a boost to my parents and in-laws. As grandparents they have found a joy in being around these small noisy people who demand and bicker and fight and generally bring disorder into their lives. I've seen my father play football in the garden with this 3 grandsons when he's usually stuck to his armchair pretty much all day. I've watched my father-in-law sit and patiently build a toy aeroplane because of the plaintive cry of, "help me Grandpa," from Brown Bear. The boys go and visit their grandparents and stay over without us which is something I never did as my grandmother was in India so I saw her rarely. I was very close to her though and loved her company when I did visit. Hubbie stayed with his grandparents when he was a child so he was very close to them and I'm so glad our boys get to do the same.

My boys have a great relationship and respect for people borne of their contact with family and friends who are older. I hope this stays with them as they grow up.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

I miss the velvet seats most of all.

I took Brown Bear to the cinema last week for the first time in ages. We were invited to see Captain Underpants by a friend who gets tickets to preview screenings and I wasn't able to go so he went with Hubbie and Blue Bear. So with the holidays well underway I thought I'd take him out - just us - as a special treat. We went to see Despicable Me 3 and he had popcorn and a soft drink I don't let him have often and we went for pizza afterwards. It was a lovely thing to do and I hope we get to do it again soon.

I used to go the cinema very regularly and now it's such a rarity that I only get to see recent films if they are on Sky movies and I get to watch them when we visit the in-laws. You see films have always been a big deal for me. The other night Dirty Dancing was on and I was telling Hubbie how I'd been to watch it when it first came out - I was 16 - and I was obsessed with it. I convinced myself I wanted to be a dancer. Just like I decided after watching Desperately Seeking Susan that I would wear those ridiculous bangles and ribbons in my hair and shop in second hand shops. I spent a lot of time in Flip on Long Acre in Covent Garden after watching that film and even spent time in Camden while also thinking, "this is a ridiculous place full of tourists why is it so popular ?"

Whenever a film comes on TV I will tell Hubbie the story that comes with it. More often that not he's not seen it anyway, but I like to add a bit of a personal touch to enhance the experience. Here are a few of my favourites:

Back to the future - Me and my brother went to watch this in the eighties and were probably wearing bodywarmers (before the were renamed gilets) which Mum had bought us in Southall market. The lads sitting behind us were talking and at a crucial point in the plot one lad - who had clearly seen it already - told the other one, "It's ok he's wearing a bullet proof vest." Suspense ruined.

Toy Story - I went to see this with all my siblings. My sisters sat behind us and I sat next to my brother. At the bit when Buzz finds out he's a toy and not a real astronaut I heard my brother quietly say, "Oh no," with genuine sadness. He was 21 !

Star Trek into Darkness - This was one of the few films I've seen with Hubbie. We upgraded to the posh seats as a treat and settled in for the cinematic experience and it was fantastic. At one point Benedict Cumberbatch's character has been captured and he's asked his name. The dramatic music lifts and he booms, "I am Khan." and at that moment someone in the audience exclaimed, "Oh Fuck !" Everyone collapsed with laughter.

Sliding Doors - I watched this with my long term cinema buddie Sandra and I had been looking forward to it for ages. We went to a daytime screening and two older ladies were sitting in front of us. They seemed to be enjoying it until one of them said, "she looks like her sister or something." and it became evident that they had no idea that it was two separate strands of the same story. We decided not to interfere to correct them.

Broken Arrow - when I used to work away from home sometimes I'd have a quiet afternoon so I went to watch this film in chinatown in Birmingham. About twenty minutes after the designated start time nothing was happening so I went to ask what happened and the manager admitted that he hadn't realised anyone was in the cinema so the projectionist hadn't put it on. I sheepishly went back to my seat to watch John Travolta smoke and over-act like a good 'un.

Titanic - I went to watch this in the much-missed ABC cinema in Streatham. It was a lovely old art deco building and the screens were old and the seats a bit tatty, but it had its own charms. During the film I noticed the screen seemed to be juddering, but no one else was bothered by it. After an hour of this I had a bit of a headache so I went to ask the manager to check if I was imagining it. He looked at the screen and said, "Oh that's not right is it ?" and went to fix it. I don't know if anyone else noticed.

Boxing Helena - I am taking a guess at the film because it was truly terrible, but I did go and see it. I was in a cinema in central London during the day and decided to sit to the left side out of the way so I could spread out and enjoy my snacks in peace. Then a woman and her daughter walked in looked around at the completely unoccupied seats and decided to sit right in front of me. In an empty cinema.

Vantage Point - Me and Hubbie decided to go to the cinema when we were in India. We went to a shopping mall in Delhi, my grandmother went to a coffee shop to watch the cricket - yes I being serious - and we went to watch a film. We paid to upgrade our seats and were offered a menu as we sat down. The waitress served me tea on a tray in our seats and offered a list of snacks. It was a bit odd but so very indian. I loved it.

Oh I miss the old days of visiting fleapit cinemas - actually no not really. I do miss going to the cinema though. I should do it more often.