I’m Going to BML16

It’s a funny old world. Back when I first became a parent in 2009 and started my original blog not long afterwards, which eventually became The Adequate Parent and had my pregnancy blog merged into it, I had no idea networks existed for bloggers.

But then BOOM! BritMums appeared, although I think it was called British Mummy Bloggers back then. I followed a few bloggers but didn’t make any friends. Somewhere along the way I persuaded some friends to be bloggers and met some mums locally who were too, and three years ago we all headed to BritMums Live (as it was then known). It was loads of fun and I got to know and meet loads of other bloggers. So much, that I went the following year – although that didn’t go so well as I had big back problems and left early.


So here’s 2016. This year I’m on my own. No bloggers with me, just meeting others there. It’s quite a big step for me – in the past year my anxieties have really started to come out more – if I get too stressed or anxious about something I will have a hot flash – and they last for quite a long time and I get a bit embarrassed about it too (the joys of getting older). So why am I going on my own then?

I have no idea. But I am. So if you see a mum with a bright red face and chest, it’s just me. Do say hello!

So, there’s some questions to answer. Let’s go then…

My name: Jo
My blog: My first proper blog is Sweetfoolthemouth which dates back to around 2003. I was on LiveJournal for a few years until eventually doing my parent blog about H (my almost seven year old daughter) and then starting Mum Friendly. I have a few others, but since the price of domains has gone up I’m going to be getting rid of a few.
Find me on social media at: @MumFriendlyJo @Schmindieblogs on Twitter (least active social network though I do use it), MumFriendlyJo on Instagram (pretty active), Jo Adams on Facebook (most active).
How I look: Tall, long dark hair, bad roots (currently, hoping to get that sorted by Saturday). Indie. Glasses.
Is this my first blogging event? No, I’ve been to BritMums Live twice, plus several others.
I will be wearing… not sure yet. Something I will feel comfortable in though.
What I hope to gain from #BML16: I’m not sure. Inspiration.
My tips for a great conference: Plan which things you want to go to and stick to it. I missed almost everything at the last BritMums through a lack of planning and horrible back pain. There will be a lot of people there and a lot of people = a lot of noise, so choose an area with your friends will be so you know roughly where to look when you’re trying to find them. Have business cards ready too, even if you don’t give any out. Everyone else is probably as nervous as you.

See you there….

Mary Poppins at Southampton Mayflower

Way back in the early 2000’s, Shaun bought me tickets to see Mary Poppins on stage as my birthday present. I was pretty happy with it, and really enjoyed the show. When I spotted Cameron Mackintosh was bringing it out on tour I hung on hoping for a date near London, before eventually deciding we could really do with a weekend away – and our closest venue happened to be Southampton!
Zizi Strallen as Mary Poppins

Mary Poppins is one of my favourite Disney films – it’s magical, brings back fond childhood memories and of course has the wonderful Julie Andrews starring in the main role. So how well does it translate onto the stage?

Firstly, this isn’t an adaptation of the film. Many parts cross over, but it does focus on the books a little more. The focus of the film is Jane and Michael’s behaviour and relationship with their parents – and the various nannys they’ve had to squash their behaviour. Along comes Mary Poppins and the whole family goes on a magical ride while dealing with their issues, and coming out of the other side.

So what is different? Some of the songs have been rearranged, but not in a bad way. Some songs have been dropped. Some new songs have been created.

But what stays the same in Mary Poppins? The magic. Mary does go up the bannister on the stairs, she flies – several times. The classic songs are there. The first half highlight is ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ with the second half being ‘Step in Time’. ‘Chim Chiminee’ forms a narrative around the story as well. Quite frankly with these three I was delighted.

Then the cast – Zizi Strallen was wonderful – she played Mary Poppins straight, but with a good comic timing – I was often laughing out loud. She had me in tears at the end of both halves too – and only The Sound of Music makes me do that. Bert is played by Matt Lee who is brilliant – and what I liked the most, neither actor tried to be Julie Andrews or Dick Van Dyke (which I think The Sound of Music had a bit of – only Connie Fisher and Petula Clark have been the least-Julie-like Maria’s). The supporting cast were brilliant too – H loved the children who brought out plenty of giggles from her.

Here’s the trailer :

Mary Poppins is on tour right now – it’s the last night in Southampton tonight and they’re booking right up until next year. If you saw the London production, it’s exactly the same.

It’s a fabulous, magical night out. Oh, and there’s plenty of Mary Poppins merchandise for sale at the shows too – there’s even a parrot umbrella (£22 for us, I passed).

We managed to get tickets at the rear of the stalls at the Mayflower – a reasonable £35ish each. Add to that a night booked at the Ibis Budget which was a ten minute walk away and it all worked out pretty well.

For an even greater idea of what it’s like, here’s the trailer from when we saw it, starring Laura Michelle Kelly as Mary Poppins and Gavin Lee as Bert.

Check the Mary Poppins Musical dates over on the official site here – and get your tickets ordered soon!

DisneyStores Launch the new Disney MXYZ Collection

Disney has just launched a new collection within Disney Stores – the Disney MXYZ collection!
Disney MXYZ Lifestyle, Disney MXYZ

Disney MXYZ (pronounced Mix-eez) is a new range which has just launched at the Disney Store. It is a fab new range which is geared towards the tween and teen age range (and possibly us older fans too).

The Disney MXYZ range is designed to Mix and Match. It features Mickey, Minnie, Stitch and Marvel. Each range has a wide variety of things from water bottles, journals, backpacks and bags, to file folders, journals, washi tape and more. (this is the point where I squeal “DISNEY WASHI TAPE – EEEK!!” – and it’s only £5.99 for three rolls too)

Disney MXYZ Minnie Washi Tape

The thing I like the most about the Disney MXYZ range is the price – ranging from £4.99 to £15.99 which keeps it within pocket money range as well.

Disney MXYZ Marvel bottle

My most favourite thing that I want to go out and buy because it looks awesome is a Mickey and Minnie backpack – because it has EARS!!! Proper ears!!!! I can’t help thinking we’ll look super cool if I could get one before our break in Paris (and our top-secret trip to Disneyland Paris which H still has no idea she’s going to) – and at £12.99 that’s an excellent price.

Disney MXYZ Mickey and Minnie backpacks

The Disney MXYZ range has a wonderful Japanese feel to it as well, and they’re going to introduce new items to the range on a quarterly basis.

Disney MXYZ Minnie Mouse

You can buy from the MXYZ range online over at the Disney Store and I suspect I’ll be heading to a store as soon as I can to check out the range. Never mind it being tweens and teens, us mid-40’s adults might like to buy a few as well. You never grow out of Disney! They’re available in stores now.

We’re posting this because we think the Disney MXYZ Range is awesome, we received no money or goods for doing this. 

Celebrate Father’s Day with DisneyLife!

DisneyLife is celebrating the magical relationship that Dads have with their children this Father’s Day by releasing a ‘top ten’ Disney Dads montage.

From words of wisdom to embarrassingly lingering hugs, the short film draws on Disney and Disney•Pixar’s incredible back catalogue to showcase some of the most touching fatherly moments from family favourites including The Lion King, Finding Nemo, Pinocchio, and The Little Mermaid.

DisneyLife’s top ten father and child moments, include:

  • Marlin reunited with Nemo and seeing him off on a school day adventure after his deep ocean odyssey in search of his son (Finding Nemo)
  • King Fergus letting his daughter try her strength with her very own bow for her birthday (Brave)
  • Simba receiving words of wisdom from his adoring dad (The Lion King)
  • Ariel receiving her father’s blessing to pursue life on land (The Little Mermaid)
  • Mr. Incredible encouraging his children to embrace their superhero destiny (The Incredibles)

These and many more treasured stories are available to enjoy via the DisneyLife app, which offers access to the largest collection of Disney entertainment and features movies, books, music and Disney Channel TV box sets, all in one place.

Whether it’s sharing a special Frozen bedtime story with Dad or enjoying a Star Wars Rebel adventure together, DisneyLife is a pretty excellent way to add some magic to Father’s Day this Sunday, June 19th 2016!

We have been given a six month subscription to DisneyLife. 

Picture-perfect picnic spots with the National Trust

There’s no better way to celebrate summer than packing a picnic and catching up with friends and family. With miles of coastline and acres of countryside, the National Trust cares for some of the best spots in the country for eating al fresco and enjoying stunning views.

For those whose picnic preparation isn’t quite up to scratch, there are also plenty of ways to make it extra-special with the delicious seasonal food on offer at National Trust cafés and shops.

Here are some of the top picnic spots and places to stop for a tasty treat:

South West
Avebury, Wiltshire
If you’re looking to picnic in historical surroundings then Avebury is the perfect spot. The pretty village is partially encompassed by the world’s largest prehistoric stone circle, now a World Heritage Site. There’s plenty of green space to throw your rug down and little ones will love rolling down the surrounding hills and banks. On the edge of the village stands Avebury Manor, which was recently transformed in a partnership between the National Trust and the BBC. The Manor creates a hands-on experience that celebrates and reflects the lives of the people who once lived in Avebury; the perfect educational accompaniment to a glorious picnic.

Lanhydrock, Cornwall
Lanhydrock estate covers 1,000 acres, with parkland, ancient woodland and riverside paths. Pack a rucksack and go on a family adventure to find your perfect spot. The estate has lots of cycle trails and even has bikes to hire, so you can plan a day full of exploration. Once you’ve had your fill of sandwiches and adventures, why not relax in the gardens and take in the beautiful scents of blooming herbaceous borders.
For information on bicycle hire, please call: 01208 265975

Studland Beach, Dorset
Take the children for a good old fashioned day out on this golden sandy beach that stretches four miles from South Haven Point to Old Harry Rocks. It’s an ideal place to enjoy the simple pleasures of beach picnics and tumbling sandcastles. And with shallow bathing water it’s perfect for paddling with the little ones. You can also visit the nearby ruins of Corfe Castle to discover over 1,000 years of history and relive childhood memories by seeing the inspiration behind Enid Blyton’s Kirrin Castle in the Famous Five.

A family enjoys a picnic on the lawn at Polesden Lacey, Surrey ©National Trust Images Stuart Cox
A family enjoys a picnic on the lawn at Polesden Lacey, Surrey ©National Trust Images Stuart Cox

South East
Polesden Lacey, Surrey
Lazy Jazz Sundays, every Sunday June – September & Bank Holiday Monday 29 August, 2pm – 4pm
Unwind on the lush green grass of Polesden Lacey’s South Lawn to the melodious tones of live jazz music. You can fill up your hamper with treats at the café which will be offering pick-up-and-go food for impromptu picnics. Every penny you spend in the café helps the National Trust care for special places like Polesden Lacey for summers to come. Afterwards take a stroll through the gardens and estate where stunning displays of climbing roses and double herbaceous borders will be in full bloom.
Price: Free event (normal admission charges apply)
For more information, please call: 01372 452048

Morden Hall Park, London
Jazzy June Evenings, 17 & 24 June, 8pm – 10pm
Morden Hall Park is green oasis, giving you a taste of the country at the end of the Northern Line. Every Friday throughout June, Morden will be staying open late and playing host to an evening of jazz in the historic stable yard. A different group will be performing each week, so bring a picnic, grab a glass of Pimm’s and take the chance to dance the night away.
Price: £8 in advance, £10 on the gate (booking essential)

Woman relaxing beside the River Wandle at Morden Hall Park, London. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Woman relaxing beside the River Wandle at Morden Hall Park, London. ©National Trust Images John Millar

Stowe, Buckinghamshire
Stowe is a place of such scale and beauty that it has attracted visitors for over 300 years. This timeless landscape, created by the celebrated gardener ‘Capability’ Brown, is full of picture-perfect viewpoints, winding paths, lakeside walks and classical temples. Drop by the café to add an extra homemade treat to your hamper. There’s everything from mouth-watering cheese scones and sausage rolls to indulgent slices of cake, so all you need to do is bring a rug and choose a spot to enjoy the view.

Blickling Estate, Norfolk
With a shimmering lake, shady woodland, colourful garden and rolling green parkland, you’re never far from an idyllic picnic spot at Blickling. Take a stroll around the grounds to find your picture-perfect setting. After tucking in, set the kids loose in the secret garden and ancient temple, and smell the wonderful citrus trees in the orangery. The whole family can also hire bikes and segways to explore the park, with every penny going towards conserving the beautiful landscape.

Flatford, Suffolk
Flatford Mill is right in the middle of Dedham Vale, part of the rolling Essex landscapes that inspired Constable’s idyllic rural paintings. This is great walking countryside, so why not pack a rucksack full of treats and head out onto the trails for a day of family fun. There are plenty of spots along the way to relax by the water’s edge and enjoy your feast. Or you can even hire a boat from the nearby boathouse and row down river to see the beautiful surroundings from a new perspective.

Wimpole, Cambridgeshire
Admire the views of the recently restored Gothic Tower at Wimpole Estate with a picnic in the north park. The 18th-century tower, designed to look like a picturesque medieval ruin, makes a picture-perfect backdrop for any picnic. You’ll be able to see right across the estate as you enjoy the peace and tranquillity of your surroundings. Afterwards, take a stroll around the gardens and woodland and find out how Wimpole’s gardeners are using greener gardening techniques to safeguard the future of this glorious estate.

Visitors at Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Visitors at Stowe Landscape Gardens, Buckinghamshire. ©National Trust Images John Millar

Berrington Hall, Herefordshire
Enjoy the splendour of Berrington Hall’s ‘Capability’ Brown parkland from the comfort of your picnic rug this summer. The lake at the centre of the park is a haven for wildlife, carefully cared for by Berrington’s gardeners and rangers. Herons, mute swans, great-crested grebes and much more live there so there’s always something to see. Afterwards take a stroll around the walled garden to see the flourishing orchard, flower borders and vegetable patch.

Clumber Park, Nottinghamshire
Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and take the time to get closer to nature at Clumber Park. Whether it’s cycling, orienteering or a gentle stroll you’re after, there are plenty of opportunities to have fun with all the family. Afterwards you can enjoy a shady picnic in the woodlands or overlooking the glittering lake. The kids can climb, swing and run around in the play park, try out some of the ‘50 things’ activities or pick up a family tracker pack to see what they can find.

Croome, Worcestershire
Croome was Capability Brown’s first landscape garden and it’s the ideal place to relax with some tasty treats. When it comes to picnicking you’ll be spoilt for choice with tranquil spots overlooking lakes and rivers, next to statues, bridges, follies or classical temples. There are plenty of activities to keep the kids entertained too, including a natural play area with den building and an exciting programme of walking trails to explore.

Plas Newydd Country House and Gardens, Anglesey, Wales. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Plas Newydd Country House and Gardens, Anglesey, Wales. ©National Trust Images John Millar

Chirk Castle
Chirk Castle is packed full of fantastic places to picnic, each with their own charm. Relax in the Kitchen Garden with far-reaching views along Offa’s Dyke and into the Ceiriog Valley below, or up at the castle you can picnic and play in the meadow with views for miles across the Cheshire plain. Why not spread a blanket on the grass in the courtyard, or if it’s tranquillity you’re after then head to the terrace at the bottom of the gardens for beautiful views across Shropshire from the ha-ha.

Dinefwr Park and Castle, Carmarthenshire
Settle down for sandwiches at Dinefwr Park and keep an eye out for the resident fallow deer that have been roaming the land for 1000 years. What better place to lay down your picnic blanket than the only parkland National Nature Reserve in Wales. Stop beneath an old oak tree or next to a flower-rich hay meadow cared for by National Trust rangers and watch the world go by. There are some designated picnic benches on the estate too.

Plas Newydd Country House and Gardens, Anglesey
With atmospheric views across the Menai Strait and to Snowdonia’s mountains, and beautiful blooming gardens throughout the summer, it’s never hard to find a perfect picnic spot at Plas Newydd. Settle down with a hamper on the lawns to the north of the mansion and you’ll be rewarded with views of the Italianate Terrace, where hot borders are a virtual furnace of reds and oranges, including canna, rudbeckia and dahlia.

Fountains Abbey,  ©NT Images Andrew Butler
Fountains Abbey, ©National Trust Images Andrew Butler

North West
Borrowdale and Derwent Water, Cumbria
Just five minutes’ walk from the quaint market town of Keswick, the Borrowdale Valley is a great place to get an introduction to walking in the Lake District. There are plenty of trails up onto the fells, or you can stick to exploring the pebbly shores around Derwent Water. Brandelhow on the western edge of the lake makes the perfect picnic location, with far-reaching views across the water and loads of space for the kids to run around in.

Quarry Bank, Cheshire
Picnic on the Mill Meadow at Quarry Bank, set against the backdrop of the 18th-century Georgian cotton mill in the valley of the River Bollin. With scenic panoramic views and plenty of space to play in, it’s the ideal place for a day of fun in the sun. Quarry Bank even welcomes four-legged furry friends to its woodlands and gardens, so you can explore the estate as a whole family.

Wray Castle, Cumbria
Perched on the shores of Lake Windermere, this mock-Gothic castle with turrets and towers provides a great backdrop for a family day out. Settle down with a feast at the picnic tables just outside the castle and you’ll be rewarded with stunning views in all directions. Little visitors will be excited to know that there’s now a mini ‘treecastle’ in the outdoors play area, so after you’ve had your fill of feast why not head out for an adventure?

Visitors in the grounds to the south front of Beningbrough Hall, North Yorkshire. ©National Trust Images John Millar
Visitors in the grounds to the south front of Beningbrough Hall, North Yorkshire. ©National Trust Images John Millar

Yorkshire and North East
Beningbrough Hall, York
Beningbrough’s gardens are full of secret nooks where you can picnic surrounded by flowers and wildlife. Or if you prefer a bit more space, why not throw the rug down on the south facing lawns and soak up some summer sun? If you’re hoping to build an appetite first you can borrow a bike for the day. There’s a selection of bikes and trikes on offer, and even one with a picnic-carrying carriage so you can tow along your lunch to your perfect destination.

Fountains Abbey and Studley Royal, North Yorkshire
On a glorious sunny day you can’t beat packing a picnic and heading for the abbey green. With acres of lush green grass and the stunning 800 year old abbey ruins as a backdrop, it’s not hard to find a picture-perfect spot. Afterwards, take a stroll among the trees on the edge of Studley Royal deer park or along the banks of the river Skell and see if you can spot some of the 500 wild red, fallow and Sika deer.

A family day at Wallington isn’t complete without the chance to play games in the outdoors. Bring your Frisbee or football or set off towards the West Woods for a wild adventure. If you’re looking for a quieter spot to relax then why not set out a blanket and tuck into a picnic on the lawn at the end of the walled garden. Overlooking the little pond, it’s the perfect hide away for a tranquil afternoon.

Northern Ireland
Rowallane Garden, County Down
Just a short drive from Belfast, Rowallane is a beautiful setting for a walk and picnic. During the summer the walled garden is brimming with colour, from egg-yolk yellow hypericum to bright pink shrub roses. There are plenty of picnic benches around the grounds, or you can take a blanket and find your own hidden corner among the blooms. Head to the garden café for extra treats, where every penny you spend goes towards conserving places like Rowallane for summers to come.

The Argory, County Armagh
Deep in the green County Armagh countryside is a place where the mist rolls down to the River Blackwater and time stands still. Enjoy peaceful views of the river, running wild in the woods and adventure playground, and mulling over the sun dial. The Courtyard Coffee Shop is full of fresh, home-baked scones, sandwiches and cakes so you can grab an impromptu picnic while you’re there.

Florence Court, County Fermanagh
Build up an appetite for a picnic with a day of adventures at Florence Court. There are miles of glorious walks and cycle trails through the forest, a playground for little explorers and the opportunity to discover more about nature with adventure tracker packs. Take a stroll to visit the blacksmith’s forge and carpenters workshop, then relax with a picnic in the peaceful gardens and enjoy the mountain views.

Every single visit supports the National Trust’s conservation work, looking after special places for people to enjoy for years to come.

The Lion Guard – Defenders of the Pride Lands at Disney Stores

Happening across Disney Stores in the UK & Ireland right now is a celebration of the Disney Junior show, The Lion Guard entitled ‘Defenders of the Pride Lands’.

The Lion Guard Defenders of the Pride Lands

The Lion Guard is a Disney Junior show which continues the story of The Lion King, following the adventures of Kion, the second born cub of Simba and Nala and his friends. It is targeted at children aged 2-7 years old. At the Disney Store in the UK & Ireland, there is a range of mini activities to celebrate the show – ‘Defenders of the Pride Lands’ with an activity based on each main character.

Kion – the leader of The Lion Guard. Guests will be asked to show what sounds other animals make, ending on Kion’s famous Lion Guard roar.

Ono – as his skill is keenest of sight, Guests will test their eyesight in a game of I-Spy for items around the Store, with clues given along the way.

Bunga – Guests will need to be brave, like Bunga, and navigate The Lion Guard maze.

Beshte – Guests will take part in a Trivia challenge to guess which animals are the strongest, just like Beshte herself.

Fuli – the fastest in The Lion Guard, and Guests will need to complete a fitness activity in the quickest time!

When you complete the tasks, you will be issued with a certificate and a set of stickers so you can become an honorary member of The Lion Guard!

The Lion Guard Defenders of the Pride Lands - Maze

Now, as I have mentioned several times on here, we’re going to Disneyland Paris this year for H’s birthday (and she still doesn’t know) – so I’ve been spending a lot of time on the Disney Store website. There’s a LOT to choose from on there!

The Disney Store has a really wide range of products including, of course, Disney Junior. There’s a range of toys from The Lion Guard which include figures, play sets, clothing, soft toys and homeware. There are also ranges available from Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Doc McStuffins, Jake and the Never Land Pirates and Sofia the First. You just need to head to the Disney Store over here.

Doc McStuffins outfit at disney store ukFancy some dressing up? There’s some fab Doc McStuffins and Sofia costumes – I like that the Doc McStuffins one comes with extra parts so you can dress up with your little pals and play vets together! (H would love that!) It has a rrp of £25.95.

Minnie Mouse costume at Disney Store UK

I’m thinking H might wear the Minnie Mouse costume which has a rrp of £25.95 – although almost certainly when we get to Disneyland – I’ve got some ears already!!

Lion Guard Kion at disney stores uk

If you’re a Lion Guard fan, then this Kion stuffed toy is pretty cute with a rrp of £18.95 he looks pretty close to his cartoon self too!

As well as this, anyone who purchases anything from the Disney Junior range at the Disney Store will have a chance to win £500 worth of Disney Store products! To enter, Guests are invited to take a fun photo of their purchase and share on Facebook by 23 July 2016.

The Lion Guard continues to air on Disney Junior every Wednesday at 5:30pm – here’s a link to the section on Disney Junior.

Warner Brothers Harry Potter Tour

This weekend just gone we made our way to Watford to the studios at Leavesden, to visit the Harry Potter Tour over at the Warner Brothers Studios. To say we were excited would be an understatement!

Harry Potter tour - outside statuesWe finally did the Harry Potter tour – we booked the tickets way up front and got a 9.30am slot. Reasonable, you’d think, except you have the trek from Carshalton up to Watford which fortunately only took an hour at that time of day. Parking is included with your ticket, and we headed into the studio to wait for our slot. There’s a cafe to the left of the building as you enter where you can wait for your slot to open.
Harry Potter tour great hall

I don’t want to spoil the tour (too much) for anyone reading this who might be going, and really just want to include practical information – though pictures will give some things away and an idea of what to expect. I’ve tried to be good – but also the costumes give a good idea of what to expect (you got used to the lack of faces!)

Harry POtter tour great hall costumes

This Harry Potter tour exists as first Harry Potter films were being created and nobody knew how the books would end, so props and scenery were kept in case they would be needed for the final film(s). So when production ended they had a load of super cool stuff which nerds like me have been desperate to see for a LONG time.

Harry Potter Tour Sorting Hat

However, when our first opportunity to go arose, H was way too young. I wanted this to be an experience we’d enjoy as a family as we have done the films. Right now H is starting Book 5, and has seen all the films up to the Half-Blood Prince (and knows way more about it all than I do).

Harry Potter tour yule ball

So what do you get on the Harry Potter tour? A fairly long queue at the start, but some fun stuff on the way. Groups are ushered into a room where there are three doors (hint – go for the left hand one if you can). The queue leading to this room goes quite slowly, but once you’re in there you’ll start the tour and can go at your own pace from a certain point.

The amount of detail that has gone into everything is amazing (and to think had there only been one book they could have been destroyed!) – and there is a LOT. The main area you go through houses almost everything you can think of, and you could easily spend at least three hours in here (we did). In fact, we only stopped as we needed to get something to eat and drink. A 9.30 slot got us inside by 10am, and eating by 1pm!

harry potter tour broom training

For kids there’s a complementary passport you can get stamped in a specific area, as well as a fantastic Golden Snitch trail – this was good for H and a major distraction too. She’s so obsessed with Harry Potter she wanted to read every-single-thing. We could have spent 13 hours (the current record for the amount of time spent there according to our guide) in there were it not for the passport!!

Harry Potter tour replica letters

Quite often we’d find a snitch and then say “ooh, maybe it’s out here!” and distract her enough that she’d forget about the reading. There is a 15th Anniversary coloured badge you can get too, of which only one was available yesterday (Gryffindor) though if you check ebay some people seem to have them for sale… I’m guessing they offer a different colour every day maybe?

Harry Potter tour shoes

In the main area of the Harry Potter tour it is sectioned into scenes and areas, so there are costumes in one part, you’ve got some Quidditch stuff going on (and a fabulous part where your child can pick up a broom, or indeed ride on one – the first is free, the second is quite expensive – we spent £40 and got a video and two photos). I love the interactive parts – you can wave your hand above a sensor which makes the knitting knit in the film when they get to the Weasley’s house in Book 2.

Harry Potter tour the Dursleys

After you’ve left the main area you head to Platform 9 and three quarters which has the first gift shop you’ll come to. This isn’t as big as the main shop but does have quite a lot. Next to it they have a green screen area where you can create a film going to Hogwarts which we did but didn’t watch (we’d already spent too much money paying for the Broomstick one – it would be great if this could be added to the existing USB so you’re only paying a big price the once).

harry potter tour platform nine and three quarters

To the side of this area is the main eating area. There’s a lot of space, and we got a seat easily having realised we’d been wandering around for three hours and were pretty hungry. We bought Butterbeer of course (it reminded me of a cream soda float) – one in a commemorative cup and two plastic ones at approx £15 total.

harry potter tour knight bus

We took our own packed lunch which saved us a bit of money too, it looked like they had a good choice of food there.

Harry Potter Tour privet drive

When you’re in the food area, you’re right by the outside set area, which when we visited had 3 Privet Drive open, and the front room as it was when Harry’s first letter(s) to Hogwarts arrived in Book 1. We also got a replica envelope like the ones used and a demonstration of how they did it. This exhibition has now finished unfortunately!

harry potter tour inside privet drive

In the outside area there are two vehicles – the motorbike and sidecar, plus the Ford Anglia where you can take free photos. There is an opportunity to have your photo taken on a green screen and be placed in the Ford Anglia – but this of course, costs!

harry potter tour free motorbike photo

It’s also around this point you realise you can’t go back. When you do the Harry Potter tour you’re going round in your own time which works well (we got lots of photos without people in the background despite there being so many of us) – and you really felt like you had your own space.

Harry Potter tour pictures in Dumbledore's office

Onwards to the next area, where it goes into the masks used throughout the film, and also how Robbie Coltrane looks so big and what they did (I’ve always wondered exactly what happened), before you’re entering Diagon Alley, some more models and then the very final room. I’ve seen many photos of this room and I wasn’t prepared for how incredible it was!

Harry Potter tour diagon alley

After that you enter a room full of boxes. But then you look… those boxes are wand boxes. With the cast’s names on them. Many many boxes…. it was a real treat, spotting the names…

harry potter tour actors wands

So finally you end up in the main shop. I spent another £15 on merchandise, but bought H a fabulous Time Turner which was £8.95 and looks really nice and sturdy and not like it will fall apart (which if you know the time turner, you’d wonder).

harry potter tour magic is might

So is the Harry Potter Studio Tour worth almost £100 for the three of us? Definitely. I’m glad we booked way up-front as it meant the tickets were paid for which freed up money for the extras… and yes, I’m a sucker for all that. Some parts were spoilers for H (the Horcruxes) so I steered her away, and a short clip from Deathly Hallows has made her want to hold off from seeing the film (good, she’s too young right now!) – though she did have a sneaky read of the book not that long ago.

Harry Potter tour delores umbridge regulation notices

As a long-standing fan of the books and the films it was a fascinating experience. I just want to talk about it! But you can’t say a lot as I think knowing only what you need to (all food places take cards, there’s one cashpoint by the entrance, there are loads of toilets, nothing seemed too scary) doesn’t spoil it for others.

harry potter tour tom riddle statue

Will I be going back? I would love to! We have no plans, however I’m now left wondering if parts of Fantastic Beasts (out in November!) will make their way into the tour, as after all it doesn’t actually say the Harry Potter tour – just the Warner Brothers Studio Tour…. hmmmm……

In addition, one thing I’d wondered – if you get a 4pm slot (which seems to be one of the last ones of the day), I’d wondered if you could get everything done. Well, the studios don’t close until 10pm, so in an ideal world, you should be able to!

harry potter tour castle

You can book your Warner Brothers Harry Potter tour tickets here. Look out for lots of fabulous 15th Anniversary events throughout the year!

Terrible Tudors at Hampton Court and Revisiting the Magic Garden

Are you going to Hampton Court to see Terrible Tudors from the Horrible Histories team at the Birmingham Stage Company this half term? We went yesterday (Saturday 28th May).

terrible tudors at hampton court palace

Terrible Tudors is the latest Horrible Histories play we went to see. Horrible Histories, how I love thee. How I wish you had existed when I was at school doing history as some of the information I’ve learned from watching the shows I’ve retained. I’ve always been convinced that had my entire schooling been in the form of a 1980s lyric I’d have got A’s in everything; but as it was, it didn’t, so I failed most of my exams. Things are so different for H. She LOVES history – my dad would have loved that she does too – he was a massive history fan and owned his own wargames business on the back of it.

So whenever Horrible Histories put on a performance nearby we do our very best to go and see it. This time it was Terrible Tudors at Hampton Court Palace; talk about a perfect setting for that period of time.

horrible histories terrible tudors hampton courtThe stage is set up to the east front gardens of Hampton Court Palace – if you’ve ever been to their open air screenings of films it’s further over so as to keep the main gardens open, and has just three stalls. You have cushion hire (£1.50 per cushion or £5 for four), a Tudor Store (takes cards, there’s a fantastic Royal Historic Palaces magazine you can buy for £2.99 – and don’t forget your membership discount in this shop – I did!) and a drinks and snacks store (cash only, no discount).

horrible histories hampton court terrible tudors

The area opens up an hour before the performance, so we headed to Hampton Court for midday, going straight to the Magic Garden now it’s fully open. I’ll come to it more in detail at the end, but it was the perfect place to have a picnic while the kids got to have a play, plus we wanted to see how much had changed since we had first visited. When we moved to the theatre area they both got a bit restless as it involved a lot of sitting down waiting, plus you’re in the sun so there isn’t a lot of shelter. Not a huge problem but if you want to get a decent space to see the production you need to aim to get there early. They have requested people don’t take chairs, though cushions are fine – I was able to lie down towards the end but still see the stage.

You can have picnics in that area too, and there’s plenty of space. Each performance has around 900 tickets sold – and I believe only a couple of dates have tickets left.

Terrible Tudors is an hour long and takes you from the reign of Richard III and the Wars of the Roses to James I succeeding after the death of Elizabeth I. Obviously, the centre of the show is Henry VIII and again, lots of “and this happened just over there at the Palace” type moments because you’re right next to an amazing piece of history, learning about it all 500 years later. It has just the three actors, but gets everything across brilliantly – even I’m retaining information!

There are plenty of laughs, plenty to entertain adults and kids at the same time (to paraphrase, “Richard III, he was mean so they buried him somewhere rubbish – under a car park in Leicester because nobody ever wins anything in Leicester” – topical and us football fans all had a laugh!). They explain religion and the differences with the catholics and protestants via supporting football teams which again is amusing! Anyway, if you’re going, you’ll love it. If you’re not then hurry up because Terrible Tudors tickets are set to sell out.

Hampton court magic garden crown mound

Afterwards we headed back to the Magic Garden until it was time to leave. We had been given coloured wristbands – you get about three hours play in there (or alternatively you could be sitting chatting in the main area next to the arena – we got seats every time and you could see the entire play area so always knew the kids were safe), then you have to leave the park for an hour before you can come back in. It was full but not too full, and it seems like they have crowd numbers well under control.

hampton court magic garden h on dragon

There’s a drinking water fountain which we refilled bottles with, and the small kiosk was also popular as it was a gorgeous hot day. They ran out of Calippo’s but we spotted a delivery of more fairly soon afterwards. The toilets are now open inside the play area too, and seemed absolutely fine – with one low sink and one higher one so good for smaller children.

Hampton Court Magic Garden May 2016

The water play area was fenced off – it looks like maybe some younger children fell in, so they’re revamping it at some point – understandable as it was quite open. Having said that, H and her friend still had plenty to do. The park looked wonderful and colourful as you can see from the pictures.

Hampton Court Magic Garden large slide

Hampton Court is open every day until 6pm. Horrible Histories Terrible Tudors is on every day this half term, and they’ll be back with a Best of Barmy Britain in the West End soon too – and I know there’s some productions arriving in Wimbledon soon as well. We love Horrible Histories, and love that the Birmingham Stage Company keep putting on these productions (10 years now!). It’s a great time to be young and to love history! Book your tickets here – adults are £10 and children £5.

The Cheery Train Driver

Have you ever been on a train with the Cheery Train Driver?

The Cheery Train Driver sounds like a title for a kids book, if ever there was one (rushes off to Google just in case..). Last Friday I was at work, but only managed to make two hours before I admitted defeat and came home, feeling utterly rubbish.

Fortunately when I left I was just in time for a train home, so headed for Clapham Junction, part panicking how I’d get home in one piece (I couldn’t breathe very well, very full of cold and tired out).

The train pulled up and as it was ten carriages there were plenty of seats, plenty of space. The doors closed, and then this happened. Actually, I wish I’d recorded more.

I’m now wondering, is he scripted or is he really a comedy genius? Can someone give him his own show? Have you been on a train with the cheery train driver (and his comments about Southern Railways going on strike – also, did you know that if you need to stop the train in an emergency you press the red button, however, running out of prosecco is not an emergency).

By the time I got to Carshalton I didn’t want to get off! But get off I did, and then spent the weekend resting and feeling sorry for myself. Ah cheery train driver, you made my day!

Women’s FA Cup Final 2016 – Arsenal v Chelsea

If you had told me eight or nine years ago that I’d be happily going to Wembley to watch Arsenal play Chelsea in the FA Cup Final, I’d have laughed at you. What on EARTH would I want to go and see either of those teams for? In fact, I’d still say it now if it was the men’s team, as we’re a Tottenham supporting family and their supporters aren’t the most friendly to ours, and vice versa. (apart from the ones we’re friends with, of course)

Wembley Stadium Instagram Selfie

However, when looking at the Women’s game, it’s different. For one thing, with the smaller crowds, everyone is far more pleasant – and it’s also much easier to meet the players at games (many a Tottenham game we’d hang around hoping to get some autographs…). Knowing this from having gone last year, we bought tickets again this year and last weekend headed to Wembley!

Wembley Stadium SSE giant sponge hands

With no preference for either team to win, it was nice going as a neutral and such a great atmosphere for H to experience again. Things were almost identical to last season, we were lucky to get the only goal of the game at our side of the field, H was happy as she got to see Casey Stoney and Fran Kirby play, and as well as that SSE who sponsor Wembley Arena next door, were handing out free giant sponge hands and rattles! It was a great party-like atmosphere, we were sat amongst fans from both teams and it was far more pleasant than when we’ve been to some Tottenham games vs either of these teams on the men’s side.

There was no swearing, no shouting, just cheering, clapping and a good happy atmosphere.

Wembley Stadium Women's FA Cup Final 2016 seats
I realise this may not be the best picture to accompany this part, it was taken at the start before the game had started, okay? :-)

Oh, and the whole thing cost us £20 with something like £2.50 for shipping because I have an NUS card, and adults were £15 – with all children going free. How good a deal is that? I only wish I’d known about it sooner as I’d have spread the word – weirdly I didn’t get my usual email from the FA Ticketing people to say they were on sale.

We had a brilliant afternoon, and H was happy as she saw several of her favourite players.

If you ever wanted to take your child to a football match but were worried about aggressive behaviour or swearing, the women’s game seems to have much less of that going on – and it’s just as fun.

Wembley Stadium players warm up

(actually, as a sidenote, I remember taking H to see Carshalton Athletic play, where there was a note for the crowds to remind everyone it’s a family club and to mind their language, while the players cursed loudly enough for us to find it quite comical…. ho hum)

We’re taking H to see England play at the end of the month at Wembley – all our first chance to see Harry Kane play (hopefully!) – something we’re looking forward to. It’ll be H’s first men’s game and I know the atmosphere will be different, even being in the family stand.


not bad for everyday recording