WHERE has the time gone? In less than two weeks, the holidays will be over. My baby boy will start school. The nights will be closing in, and leaves will begin to drift steadily towards the ground…
As with every holiday (and as is only right when you have a four- and two-year-old to entertain all day), I’ve found little time for blogging. Which is a shame, as we’ve done loads of stuff….so I thought I’d drop a few pictures here, with some words, to capture a selection of memorable moments from our Summer 2014.
Trip to Daddy’s office
D works close to Charing Cross. One sunny day, we boarded the train, and headed into town to hang out near the Queen’s residence.
The view from D’s office is awe-inspiring. On some days, this part of London looks picture-book perfect.
St James’ Park has a well-equipped playground (complete with wooden snails), which we found was a good place to pause amidst the sightseeing.
(I was going to post some pictures of Buckingham Palace here, but Gwen seems to have developed an irrational terror of the Queen. So all the shots involved her trying to scoot away, in horror, from the official residence….)
D took a couple of days off work towards the end of the holiday, so that we could each spend a day with one of the children. On ‘Mummy and Gwen’ day, I took my daughter to Tate Modern. We found a little corner in the Matisse-inspired children’s activity room, and she spent a good twenty minutes pushing little bit of coloured plastic around on the lightbox.
On ‘Austin-and-Mummy’ day, we headed over to museumland in South Kensington. It’s the other side of town from us, so I was gearing myself up for a day of exhaustion, and fractured nerves. But, despite the long journey there and back, it was surprisingly relaxing. Austin was so absorbed by the interactive displays – properly engaging with them, without veering off into tussles with other children over whose turn it was to operate the water chutes – that I found myself able to perch on the sidelines, occasionally shouting words of encouragement.
We even found time, at the end of the day, to pop to the local library so Austin could complete his reading challenge and tell the staff there about the sixth book he’s read over the Summer.
I only wish I could be there in the school Assembly (one of his first ever) when he’s presented with his certificate….*sobs quietly into hankie*
The weather was foul on Monday, but we decided to drive out to Kent anyway, to look for the Gruffalo as planned. And I’m soooo glad we did. Although we were thoroughly soggy by the end, it was nothing a hot chocolate and a gingerbread man couldn’t sort out. And it beat staying indoors all day with CBeebies.
We did lots, lots, lots more. Tons of playdates, trips to the park, crafty sessions, and even (yesterday) a stint at mud-pie making.
I would say that I’m sorry I’ve been so busy with all this holiday activity, that I haven’t had time to blog properly about it.
The other day, like a lot of families, we were surprised out of our Summertime complacence by storms. Huge, howling, bucketfuls-of-rain storms.
As luck would have it, we’d just been sent some indoor playthings by the kind folk at Learning Resources. They’d asked us to try out their Geosafari Jr Talking Microscope and Animal Eye Viewers. So, instead of sticking to our plans to enjoy the great outdoors (and getting drenched in the process), we decided to create a mini-beast haven in our own house.
Geosafari Jr Animal Eye Viewers
These eye viewers are striking, bold, sturdy and (as it turned out) lots of fun. They provoked much hilarity when almost 5-year-old Austin and 2-year-old Gwen played with them for the first time.
Tomfoolery aside, these eye viewers were a good way to help the children learn about how animals see the world (it turns out that I’m still learning myself. Whoever knew that sharks could see behind themselves??).
The insect eyes showed the world as a yellowed place, multiplied many times – just like a fly’s vision. The shark’s eyes turned things blue, and had small rear-view mirrors on each side of the mask, so if you gazed to the side, you could see behind you. The chameleon was perhaps the least impressive to use – the eyes swivelled independently, but you had to remove it from your face and turn them with your fingers to make it work – but, as you can see from these pictures, it looked pretty cool. That was one of the added bonuses of these masks – they’re bright and colourful enough to be an instant hit with little ones.
Learning Resources’ toys usually have plenty of value added in the way of factsheets and extra information. The Eye Viewers came with mini-booklets containing facts about each animal, and there was a link to download an Animal Eye Viewers Activity sheet with suggestions for fun ways to use the viewers – walking backwards round the house using the shark mask, for instance, which I tried to shrieks of ‘I want a go!’ from Austin and Gwen. We improvised a little too, playing a game where I tried to sneak up behind one of the little sharks, without them seeing me in the rear-view mirrors. And Austin even had a go at writing his name while peering through the insect mask.
These masks were a hit, and an enjoyable way to brighten up a dismal morning spent indoors. I’m sure they’ll be lots of fun to play with in the garden, too.
Geosafari Jr Talking Microscope
When Gwen was safely tucked up in bed for her nap, Austin and I took out the Talking Microscope for a play. It’s for children aged 5 and over, which seems just about right; it comes with a set of 12 slides featuring insects, which would be a bit too delicate for a very small child.
The animals encased in the slides are convincingly realistic; at first, I thought the mosquito was real…..
There are two settings on the microscope: ‘facts’ and ‘quiz’ (shown in the video below). After you’ve inserted the slide and tapped in a code, the microscope tells you several snippets of information for each slide. It would have been nice to hear a British accent rather than the ubiquitous American, but apart from that, I really couldn’t fault this toy.
Austin LOVED the microscope. He was enjoying discovering about insects so much that I grabbed the camera and took a short clip. If you watch till the end, you’ll see him beaming with delight at answering a question correctly. Very cute! (please bear in muind that this was a spontaneous capture, so I didn’t have a chance to stage the shot….or tidy up…..)
The Learning Resources website described the microscope as perfect for independent play, which was true. Austin’s not yet five, but he quickly picked up the knack of using it by himself. And, as well as helping him learn about insects (a particular obsession with little girls and boys of this age, in my experience), it tested his powers of recall, physical dexterity and letter recognition.
A good all-rounder, then. And, as you can see, the sun finally decided to come out and shine that afternoon. So off outside we went, to find some real-life bugs…..
Disclosure: we were sent a Talking Microscope and Animal Eye Viewers for the purpose of this review. But all views expressed are my own.
‘Mummy, I don’t want to go on the big boy swings. Can you lift me into this one instead?’
We were in the local park, on one of last week’s baking hot mornings.
‘No, Austin. You’re nearly five. You’re too big; you’ll get stuck.’
‘I’m not nearly five. I’m four-and-a-half.’
[He's four-and-three-quarters, actually. But I thought it best to abandon this bit of the argument.]
‘These swings are for very little children. Even Gwen’s getting a bit big for them. They’re really meant for girls and boys who are under two.’
‘Pleeease, Mummy? Please can I go on it, for one last time?’
It didn’t feel right to deny Austin a final swing in the baby seat. I hauled him up (he’s no whisp of a boy; I feared for my back). But, as he fannied around, changing direction so he could look out over the green of the park, and ‘see the kites’, I felt a pang of sadness.
This Summer will be Austin’s last as a pre-schooler. In September, he starts reception.
He’s starting to grasp the implications of a longer day spent away from home (‘But why do we need to stay at school for such a long time after lunch?’ and ‘If we can’t have Mummy-and-Austin time in the day any more, when Gwen’s napping, when will we have Mummy-and-Austin time?’).
School will give him the focus and stimulation his questioning brain needs (I can barely keep up with him, these days). But….school is just the beginning. Day after day, he’ll leave the house. He’ll spend the biggest chunk of his waking life in a place where he’ll need to find his own niche in the world. He’ll play, read, listen, make friends; fight, laugh, swot and talk his way into becoming a grown-up.
After that, there will be work. Every single day (bar two), of every single week (give or take a small amount of holiday). And then – hopefully – the responsibility of a family of his own, possibly even kids……
But I’m letting my thoughts run away from me.
The point is: apart from making sure I don’t do my back in, there’s no need to hurry him out of his desire to play on the baby swings. In less than a month, he’ll have to leave behind a lot of his babyhood. Daily afternoon cuddles on the sofa with Mummy, for instance, will be no more. And the bits that don’t fall away through lack of time, will be teased out of him by peers quick to pour scorn on anything which suggests a four-year-old is a ‘baby’.
So, for this Summer, at least, I’m going to try not to grumble when my four-and-a-half year old (or should that be nearly-five-year-old?) son asks me to help him onto the baby swings.
Imagine strolling along a quiet starlit beach, safe in the knowledge that your children were happy and cared for.
Picture lunches by the pool, with those children telling you all about their morning’s adventures: splashing in the water, sketching seaside characters, sailing and windsurfing (and that’s even the three year olds…).
And dinners under clear skies, with a sumptuous feast of international and local dishes: sea bream grilled to perfection, flavoursome paella, fresh feta salads, melt-in-the-mouth mezze…..
Think of a holiday where you could escape with your partner for some treasured adult time: cycling along the shore, diving to the bottom of the sea, or just lounging in the sun, with a good book in your hand and a cerulean pool lapping at your feet.
I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately, I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life”
Henry David Thoreau
(Ok, ok, I know it wasn’t the woods….but we really did suck delight from our time at Levante…)
When I found out, last December, that I’d won a trip to Levante, I was ecstatic. A holiday, as a prize for writing this post about Mumsnet Blogfest? I’d hit a sun-drenched jackpot.
I’d never holidayed on a beach resort before. Would D and I have the freedom we wanted? Could a resort package provide us with the excitement that comes with independent travel (which is what we’d been used to, in our pre-children days)?
The answer was a resounding ‘yes’.
And – as the writer Rachael Lucas had predicted, in our Twitter exchange before I left – as well as taking every last bit of enjoyment from each tiny moment, D and I were able to have our “first rest in forever”.
So how did Mark Warner manage to convert us seasoned independent travellers into resort-lovers? For us, there were a few selling points.
I’m a stay-at-home Mum, and our two children (four and two) haven’t been used to much in the way of childcare. But I do know that, if the children aren’t happy, then the whole family ends up miserable. No amount of sunshine and blue skies can make up for having to drag fed-up kids around for a week. Mark Warner took care of this. Their service was, in our view, second to none.
Austin’s Mini Club was infused with adventure. His key worker, Maz, gave her all in helping the 3-5 years olds enjoy a wide range of Mark Warner activities. As well as watersports, the children took introductory tennis lessons, poolside picnics, and crafty sessions in a delightfully cool Club house.
Little Gwen was nurtured in the Toddler Club (for 1-2 year-olds). Although she took a while to adjust to being without Mum or Dad every morning, she built up a strong bond with gentle-natured Charlotte, who was by her side through pool splashing, hole-digging on the beach, crown-making, and triking sessions at the resort’s playground.
This all allowed D and me to spend some quality daytime hours together (from 9am till 12.30, for 6 days of our stay – unheard of in our normal lives). And the evening creche, running from 7.30 till 11pm, gave the kids a chance to unwind with little friends in front of a TV show and film, while Mum and Dad dined under the stars, at one of the resort eateries: La Taverna, the Amalthia Restaurant, or pan-Asian Annora.
The same childcare staff looked after the youngsters in the evening as well as the day, so there were familiar faces at bedtime. And the nannies were sensitive to the needs of each child: our little Gwen, who rarely gets put to bed by anyone other than us, was upset in the creche on a couple of evenings. Maz came to find us in the Amalthia Restaurant to let us know, and find out whether we wanted to collect her (we did, but Austin insisted on staying. We practically had to drag him away from all of the children’s activities). And – a lovely touch here – the maitre d’ of the restaurant, Mika, even arranged for a waiter to carry our (very heavy) plates of food and wine to our balcony, so we could continue dining after putting Gwen in her hotel room bed.
Mark Warner holidays are renowned for their tennis facilities, so D – a keen player, but whose serves have become a bit wonky from lack of practice – was in his element. He was able to get back some of his old form with the help of some one-to-one coaching from tennis pro Charlie.
The standard among a lot of the Mark Warner guests was high (one of the other guests during our week was the brother of a former British number one player). I’m pretty rubbish at the sport, but the tennis was set up to make it easy to find players of a similar level to yourself. And the ‘social tennis’ was aptly named: D and I made friends with a fair number of people on the courts.
I felt comfortable enough to play the games set up for beginners at the Tennis Festival, and the sociability of the game was so enjoyable, that I’ve signed up for a local beginners’ class, to hone my skills in time for next Summer’s season….
Perhaps by the time Summer comes around again, our whole family will be able to hit some serves together, on a court under the sun.
The Levante waterfront, overseen by industrious Pedro, was bustling with activity. You could choose whether to traverse the waves by sailing, windsurfing, kayaking, waterskiing or wakeboarding.
And – not to be forgotten – there was also a huge inflatable green and yellow sofa, dragged along by a speedboat, which some of our new holiday friends told us was just like a fairground ride, only bouncier.
D and I signed up for the resort’s introductory sailing session. We spent two relaxing hours in a Pico together, tacking backwards and forwards across the sparkling bay, and sailed upwind towards the gauzy green hills at the edge of Afandou.
For me, it was almost effortless: under the serene sky of the Greek morning, I found out something new about my partner. He already knows how to sail (and windsurf). After nearly capsizing our boat, I decided to turn down the offer of swapping into the instructor’s vessel for some one-to-one tuition. It was more fun to sit back and let D take control of the rudder, listen to his tales about childhood sailing on Scottish lochs, and find out something unexpected about this man I’ve known since we were nineteen.
Anyone who says romance dies when you have kids, needs to hop onto a BA flight and get their butts over to Levante.
Scuba and Cycling
The most thrilling part of the trip for me, was scuba diving, under the watchful guidance of In-Depth diving instructor Dan. His career stemmed all the way back from early diving days, as a novice 14-year-old learning his skills in murky Peterborough pools.
We drove out to a cove with a shallow bay; flubbered our way down the beach in our wetsuits; and took a short tour of the 6-metre-deep bed. At one point Dan led us to the edge of a sheer cliff, where the sea floor dropped dramatically down to 30 metres (is it possible to get vertigo under water? I know I certainly did…..)
Although the Med is the most over-fished sea in the world, we still managed to see a fair amount of marine life, including a sea cucumber, which Dan passed me to hold (they’re quite soft and delicate-feeling. Whoever knew?). I shared the dive with a father and his 12-year-old daughter, whose first sea excursion it was. The beams on all our faces on the drive back to the resort were bright enough to dazzle the oncoming traffic.
D and I also cycled. One morning we took out a couple of mountain bikes, to explore the area around Levante. We biked along with the sound of cicadas belting out from the undergrowth; coasted past olive trees, and emerged onto a coastal path, which took us along a pretty much deserted stretch of the beach.
The area around the resort was beautiful, and it left us aching to see more of this intriguing island.
We managed to cram an awful lot in to our week at Levante, but somehow it all felt blissfully easy. Our accommodation – we were given a family suite, with two interconnecting rooms – was comfortable, and kept immaculately clean by dedicated hotel staff (who even made a special out-of-hours trip back one evening, because the children had been napping when they did their rounds).
Attentive staff in the restaurants kept us well-fed and happy. And, even though the food was so delicious that we ate about three times as much as we normally do – and despite the fact that we seemed to do loads of lounging by the pool – we managed to avoid piling on the pounds. Exercise just seemed to happen effortlessly on the resort.
As well as all the tennis, diving, cycling and sailing, the glistening pools were so inviting, and the sea so refreshingly cool, that we spent hours just messing about in the water, making happy family memories.
I spent a couple of hours in Levante’s air-conditioned gym, and took a few exercise classes with the dulcet-toned fitness instructor Hannah: aqua aerobics, sunrise stretch, and a delectable yoga-style stretch on the beach. D played regular 5-a-side-football sessions with a team assembled by Rich, whose sprightly commitment to the beautiful game caused him to pull a tendon on the last evening of our stay.
And it was this commitment – shown by all the staff we met – which helped turn our Mark Warner holiday into such a comfortably exciting experience. We were welcomed and looked after by a large team of British and Greek professionals, all glowing with bronzed health and looking as though they were delighted to be there, working in such a fine resort.
And who could blame them? I’m itching to go back.
Our life, for our all-too-short week at Levante, felt charmed. We were bedazzled by the perpetual sunshine, and the clear azure skies; cooled by the refreshing sea breeze; and lulled by the cicadas in the evenings.
Not everything was perfect. Some of the music played over the resort’s sound systems wasn’t quite to our tastes (personally, I’d have preferred them to crank up the jazz, and tone down the Euro-pop). The Satellite TV in our room brought us horrific scenes from the Middle East; there’s no escaping reality, even when you’re in paradise. And Austin caught a bug towards the end of our stay, so he had to miss the last day of Mini Club, which he was very disappointed about.
But none of these things eroded the peachy glamour of Levante, or spoiled our enjoyment of its thrilling opportunities. We ended our week-long stay feeling as though holidays would never be the same again.
But don’t just take my word for it. If you’d like to find out more, you can read other reviews, from bloggers who recently visited Levante:
I’ll be posting a full account of the break next week [update: the post is now here], but in the meantime, here’s something for the weekend. I’ve put together a few of our holiday snaps, as a sneak preview…..and I’ll back on Tuesday, to explain why the holiday was so delightful.
This was the view on our first evening. Twinkling pool lights, with a short walk down a flower-scented path down to the beach.
The next day there was plenty of time for exploring that beach, and for splashing in the resort’s many pools.
And – of course – just for lounging.
We dined well, with lunchtime treats by the pool
High tea for the kiddoes
Then: grown-up time. Cocktails on the quiet beach, while the waves lapped the shore
Followed by delicious fare in one of the resort’s three restaurants (this picture was taken at the Greek Taverna).
Our little garden’s come a long way, since we moved into this house five summer holidays ago.
Back then, one flower bed was completely taken over by colossal leylandii, whose shadows turned our neighbours’ gardens (and ours) into gloomy black holes.
One of the first things we did after moving in, was chop those trees down, with the help of the in-laws. So now everyone on the street can enjoy a cup of tea (or margarita) in their garden, in the sun.
(When it shines, that is.)
Before Gwen came along, I used Austin’s nap times to paint our shed a candy-stripe blue. On a hot day, if you squint a bit, you can sometimes imagine there’s a beach hut at the bottom of the garden. When the weather’s dreary, the splash of colour is a cheery ‘sod you’ to the grey clouds sitting above the shed.
We’re also on our way to brightening up the garden with flowers and foliage. There’s still a lot of work to be done before the flower beds are the feast of colour I hope for (2015 will be the year for that, I reckon – what else am I going to do with all the extra time while Austin’s at school?). But we’ve made a start this year, planting, pruning, and sowing seeds.
The garden was paved when we moved in. After a lot of heaving and staggering, D managed to pull up all the ugly chunks of concrete. An advert on freecycle brought a woman, and three sixteen-year-old assistants, to collect them. One of the boys was her son; the others, I think, had been bribed and cajoled into helping. Their initial bravado (carrying the heavy slabs four at a time; cheery banter about who was able to shift the most) quickly turned to sweaty, puce-faced grumpiness (‘There’s more??? ALLOW IT!’).
Still, I’d like to hope they made good use of those paving stones. In their place, D laid a lawn; a good base for many a paddling pool, in last year’s heat.
And a good place to put this slide, which is proving to be the main attraction when friends come round to play. We were lucky enough to win Mark Warner’s first Blogger Challenge, with a prize of vouchers to spend at Kiddicare. As well as the slide, we bought this sand and water table:
which neatly turns into a picnic bench, where the children have been eating their lunch and tea almost every day since it arrived.
Who says you can’t live your life outdoors when you live in a city?
It’s been a lucky time for us. Not only did we win the Mark Warner Blogger Challenge, but we ALSO (and I’m swooning a little here) won a competition run by Mumsnet to write a post about Blogfest 2013. The prize was a trip to Mark Warner’s Levante Resort, on Rhodes, and we’ll be setting off very shortly on what I’m sure will be an amazing summertime adventure.
Summer 2014. It’s been a time of Wimbledon tennis, World Cup soccer and a Tour de France which set off to rapturous applause in Yorkshire.
On top of all those sporting delights, we’ve been challenged by the lovely folk at Mark Warner and GoApe to tell the world (on this blog) how our family likes to keep active together.
My first thought was: we love to get on our bikes, and pedal off into the countryside. Ooh yes, our family is a gang of cyclists.
Back in 2011, when Austin hadn’t yet turned two, and Gwen was still a merry twinkle, we took a beautiful cycling holiday in northern Belgium.
We stayed in a pretty cottage on a farm near Bruges, complete with chickens, cows, and a battered ping-pong table to entertain ourselves with in the evenings.
Austin could barely contain his excitement at the prospect of pedalling around the Flemish cycle tracks.
We passed some afternoons bouncing through the cobbled streets of Bruges, and coasting past windmills.
But the finest were the days we spent on pretty, tree-lined paths that sang with the calls of birds.
At afternoon nap time, Austin would fall asleep on the back of D’s bike. He was so zonked from all the fresh air that we were able to lay him down in a wooded glade while we consulted the map (and enjoyed a leisurely sandwich lunch).
It was impossibly peaceful. Once, to our delight, a wild rabbit even hopped out of its hiding place, to check out the owners of those strange English accents.
But this all happened a long time ago. Trying to find a physical activity that we all do together – right now, with our four- and two-year-old – was a trickier challenge that you might imagine.
D used to represent his county at rugby, and he takes Austin to play every Saturday morning. I, on the other hand, know nothing about the sport except that it can cause jamon-chunky thighs and a severe case of cauliflower ear.
So, no all-family action there.
D and I love to ski. We got together shortly after our first trip on the piste with each other (we bonded in the evenings, as most of the day I was tottering around on the green slopes, while D was on the other side of the mountain, hurtling down the black).
But our two children won’t be ready to don their mini-skis until next season, at the very earliest.
We enjoy a good ramble across hills, dales and forests. But this picture was taken on my birthday all of three years ago, when we gathered a gang of friends for a walk near Otford in Kent. Now that Austin and Gwen have outgrown their backpacks, and aren’t yet old enough to walk further than the local park, our walking trips have literally been cut short.
The closest we get to an all-family activity session is our weekly trips to the swimming pool. Austin bobs around for half an hour in a lesson with other pre-schoolers, while I dash into the other end of the pool with an armband-clad Gwen. Sadly, though, the Daddy D has to stay put in his office during all this splishy-splashy fun. We do occasionally manage to get into the water together (the Northumberland shore at my Grandma’s 90th birthday celebration was the last bit of water we all dipped our toes into) but it’s not often enough for my liking.
Between us all, we enjoy a fair amount of sporty activity. But, at the moment, it’s rarely together, as a foursome. I’ve decided that we’re in the tweenage years: at two and four, our children are too large to be carried around in slings and carriers. And they’re not quite old enough yet to keep up the pace set by bigger boys and girls.
But in response to Mark Warner and GoApe’s challenge, I would answer: give us a few months, then Austin will have learnt to pedal his own bike, and Gwen should still be just about small enough to pop onto the back of Mum or Dad’s cycle.
Then, you’re likely to find us heading back to the Flemish flatlands, to resume our Tour de Belgium.
Active fun for all the family. We can’t wait.
This post is my entry to the Mark Warner Blogger Challenge 2, in partnership with GoApe. The prize is a family ticket for Tree Top Adventure at any of the GoApe sites. Any blogger that completes all the Challenges will have a chance to win a Mark Warner family holiday.
Does your child have an imaginary friend? Let’s say they were more playful, destructive, cranky and mischievous than all the characters in The Muppets put together.
And that they were huge. And blue.
Then, you’d have The Elephantom.
Ben Power’s National Theatre adaptation of the Ross Collins book, playing at the New London Theatre until 6 September, begins with eerie lighting, some sultry brass parps bursting through a gloomy soundscape, and a little girl (Susan Harrison) who is roundly ignored by her self-absorbed parents.
Critics from The Guardian and The Telegraph have drawn comparisons between The Elephantom and David McKee’s Not Now Bernard (which I’ve also reviewed on this site). And, although the similarities are unmistakeable (parents who are too busy and preoccupied to spend time with their child, or to notice when they’re in trouble), to me The Elephantom was a richer, more complex story. Like a Famous Five adventure (where children face peril without any assistance from parents), only with the five children whittled down to one. And, for good measure, incorporating a strong Potteresque element of supernatural and magic.
When the elephantom appears in the girl’s bedroom one night, after some trepidation the girl greets him as friend, and the two dance joyously together (I found this part so moving – at last, the lonely girl had found a friend – that it brought tears to my eyes. Sadly, it also had a similar effect on the three-year-old sitting next to me, who howled with terror at the blue spectre bulging and trumpeting on stage).
But the big blue elephant reveals himself to be not a cheering companion but a frenemy, of the pesky troublemaker kind: he wrecks the house, tries to pour a scalding hot pot of tea over the mother’s head, and invites a load of ele-friends round for a house party in what must be the most glorious, rumbustious dance sequence ever known to puppetry.
The mood of the show changes dramatically with each different set; no more so than when Granny arrives, and accompanies the girl on a visit to the macarbre shop, Spectral & Sons, to find out more about her unwelcome (and increasingly over-inflated) new houseguest. The solution to her problem lies in a natural remedy which brings the show to an uproariously comedic close, with audience members left wondering whether they’ll run into a exiled blue elephant when they emerge onto the West End streets.
It’s likely that some children at the lower end of the age range (3+) will be overwhelmed by the sight of a massive blue elephant-balloon, accompanied by a score that beautifully conveys the sense of wonder, joy, and yes, danger, that the appearance of the elephantom brings. It was clearly all a bit much for the howling girl sitting next to me in the auditorium. But I was accompanied by a party of seven children, ranging in age from two-and-a-half to five, and they all thoroughly enjoyed the show, despite the odd frisson of fear. An hour is a long time for a three-year-old to sit in one place, but only a little bit of wriggling and seat-kicking occurred (among our gang, at least). And we grown-ups were able to marvel at the beauty and mastery of the puppetry, and guffaw at the sight of several seven-foot, tutu-clad elephants bopping along to MC Hammer’s You Can’t Touch This.
The Elephantom is a larger-than-life, skilfully crafted Summer blockbuster of a show. It’s a grand spectacle, well worth a look before it closes in September.
Disclosure: we were invited to a preview show of The Elephantom. But all views expressed are my own.
Not the end that falls in the middle of winter, heralded by a whole load of Christmas cultural shenanigans (Panto, blockbuster films, tons of West End shows….and – ahem – Strictly Come Dancing).
No, I mean the high-Summer lull, before the start of a new school year. And September’s return of the mass of theatre shows, films and exhibitions, which help make the endless months of damp, cold and drizzle feel a lot more bearable.
But – as Tattooed Mummy points out in her post on Camp Bestival – it’s good to pause, switch off and sleep for a while. Getting out into the great outdoors while the sun is shining is a great way to reset our body clocks, and what better way to do that than at a festival, where as well as open air there’s a load of music and other entertaining cultural fare (including yummy dinners that stop good food from going to waste)?
Of course, not all cultural Summer gigs take place outdoors. Chris from Thinly Spread has posted a guide for anyone planning a trip to London, and wondering what to do with the kids. Museums feature high up on the list and, for those wanting to spend some time slowly perusing an exhibition, there’s plenty to fill the calendar.
For anyone looking for photographic inspiration, Jenny at The Gingerbread House has written an informative review of The Dennis Hopper exhibition at the Royal Academy. Something to thrill all those who like to point and shoot, by the sounds of it. And, if you’re planning a summer of developing your own art, and taking your love for writing, blogging or photography a stage further, it’s worth checking out these posts by Joanne from Opposable Thumbs and Honest Mum.
Of course, there’s still a fair bit of theatre to enjoy while the sun beats down outside. Like Moominsummer Madness at thePolka Theatre, which I reviewed on the Pigeon Pair and Me. And, if you’re determined to dream yourself out of the Summer months and into the Autumn/Winter season, you can always look to see what’s booking now for Christmas. Take The Royal Opera House production of The Wind in the Willows, for instance, which Penny Alexander writes about on her blog.
Do you have any of your own arts and cultural tips, for the Summer or beyond? If so, please post them into the comments below.
This year, we spent almost all of Father’s Day in a car, on our way back from my Grandma’s 90th birthday celebrations. It was dreary, dismal, and especially tough on D (my contact lenses were lost, so he had to do all the driving).
We’re not a family to easily pass up an opportunity for celebration. So, we decided to reschedule Father’s Day for a fortnight later, so we could give our D the attention he deserves.
(And, luckily for D, the rescheduled Father’s Day coincided with the morning after the stag do of one of his best friends….double excuse for a lie-in).
Here’s the hangover Father’s Day breakfast: chilli-fried potatoes and mushrooms, topped with a poached egg and accompanied by a couple of veggie sausages. No crumbs in the bedsheets with this little lot…..
We spent the day lounging around in our jammies and scruffs. Then – despite the rainclouds looming overhead – we optimistically put on our Summery outfits, ready for our tea.
(The flowery tunic, blue boy’s shirt and blue spotty skirt are all by Joules. I bought Austin’s khaki shorts at Kiddicare and my blue trousers at Primark. My shoes are from Clarks, and Austin’s are from Mothercare. Gwen’s pretty top is a hand-me-down from a friend.)
Our destination was SoDo, a child-friendly pizza restaurant, which sells gourmet sourdough delights to the grown-ups, and reasonably-priced mini-pizzas to the little ones.
Blue cheese, olive and artichoke pizza: delicious fare for a late afternoon spent indoors, watching the rain pattering down on the street outside.