Our Wildcats Time Comes to an End, Sadly

This week we received an email, letting us know that our Saturday football sessions with Crystal Palace Wildcats will finish.

H at SSE Crystal Palace Wildcats

Which makes several young girls aged 5-11 quite sad.

Wildcats are girls-only football sessions which we’ve been attending since we did some work with the FA. We have an awesome group of girls, we meet almost every Saturday whatever the weather and we play football. We train, we learn skills and we have fun.

But not for much longer.

I had noticed several clubs starting extra Wildcats sessions around the country, and Crystal Palace weren’t alone in this, starting three extra sessions.

Crystal Palace Wildcats sessions 2018

Which leaves me wondering – has it all been too much? Have SSE stopped sponsoring Wildcats and actually the clubs can’t afford to do this, so these sessions are the first thing to go? Has the FA pulled funding?

We don’t have answers, just that there’s an opportunity to move to Caterham Pumas.

But it does make me wonder, If that was the case, why didn’t they set up Caterham Pumas Wildcats?

Although then we wouldn’t have had our amazing coaches, Charlotte and Sophie. They have made such a massive difference to all of the girls, bringing a love of football to their Saturday mornings. H used to be someone the boys wouldn’t pass to, to now being someone who will try and get a ball from the boys.

They have been brilliant, and we’re all gutted that won’t have training sessions with them any more. They made a difference.

It does make me wonder. Is it about money? Everything to do with women’s football is to do with money. Look at the new league structure. Coincidentally, Crystal Palace Ladies were accepted into Women’s Premiership on the same day we got our email saying the sessions would no longer exist. I’m sure the two incidents aren’t linked…

So, onwards we go, having to find another club to play football. I can only hope any future coach gives H the support and confidence which got her to the level she plays now. I’m hoping that all her friends she made make the switch as well…

Thank you Charlotte and Sophie. You made a difference to a lot of girls and will continue to do so. Thank you for taking the time out to make a difference.

Hagrid the Bear aka A New Family Member

This weekend we’ve had a new addition to our family. Hagrid the Bear.

Hagrid the Bear is named by one of our friends, it’s the perfect name but H is still to come around to it. She will. Here’s his story.

I’ve been an active PTA member since H started school, doing it alongside my job and Brownies, plus this blog whenever I can. The PTA is important – especially these days. With school cuts, you can often find yourself funding things the schools can no longer pay for. In our case it’s IT Software. Yes, IT, the subject of the future. Good old school cuts, it’s quite depressing.

However, the upside of this is the summer fair. We went along to help our school yesterday, sitting on the Crazy Sand stall which is always fun. You get to help kids make interesting creations with varying sand colours (I’d like to think Brownie leader skills come into it and being able to help kids without being too bossy).

Then of course, there’s the grand raffle at the end of the day, with such delights as a Samsung Tablet, tickets for Chessington and an Amazon Echo Dot as prizes.

We only buy a small amount of tickets, but always contribute to everything as much as we can. I didn’t expect to win, though it would be nice, as we’re trying to get rid of things for potential downsizing. Swedish Death Cleaning and Marie Kondo are my friends right now.

So imagine our joy when H’s name got called out as a prizewinner. We won this. A.K.A. Hagrid. (H is still not convinced, but let’s face it, he’s a Hagrid. Big bear, much loved).

H and Hagrid the bear

Apparently, there were tears from some kids in the playground when they didn’t win him. There were tears from Shaun and I as we wondered where on earth the bloody bear was going to live. There were tears of laughter from the parents all around us as we had all stood repeating “please don’t let us win the giant bear” and they saw our faces.

H had tears of joy, however. “He’s going to sleep in my bed!” she announced. No he’s bloody well not!

He makes a good foot rest. (n.b. you must always read books with a pen in your hand according to H)

H and Hagrid the bear chilling on the settee

Even Shaun got in on it. He’s got a new buddy.

Shaun and Hagrid the bear

Eventually, the football finished and it was time for H to head to bed. Without Hagrid the bear. He’s got his own bed, it would seem.

Hagrid the bear in bed

I mean, SERIOUSLY. What are we going to do with Hagrid the Bear? He’s about five foot tall. I’m laughing and crying at the same time. At least we won’t have any problems finding clothes for him, should H choose to dress him up….

So yes, if your school PTA has a summer fair, beware of the giant bear. He might come to your house when you least expect it… and if you donate one as a prize to the fair, you’re probably me. I totally get it now…

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire Tour at WB Studios

We were invited to Leavesden to visit the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire tour at WB Studios. It was our third visit, H and I eagerly going along as proper Harry Potter fans. Shaun joined us knowing that it’s quite good fun and interesting, having surrendered to everything several years ago!

The Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire tour at WB Studios runs until September 2018. There are a whole load of new things to see while you’re there.

Hogwarts Bridge section at WB Studio Tour

We found it was a good idea to watch the movie beforehand. It’s not often that a movie has its own exhibition which makes remembering and spotting things a lot easier. The thing I’ve found with the WB Studio tour is you see things you’ve missed on prior visits all the time. There’s always something new there.

The biggest change is the entrance – the large building (which we were told will be a Fantastic Beasts extension back in December) is well on the way. Nobody would confirm this on our visit, though it makes perfect sense, got to store the Nifflers somewhere, right?

Magical Menagerie Diagon Alley signs

Passport in hand, we entered the building making sure to stay on the left hand side of the room to get front row seats in the auditorium.

Large Goblet of Fire at WB Studio Tour Leavesden

It’s all about the Great Hall though, those doors,

Entrance to the Great Hall

the statues…

Statues by the Great Hall

The first thing you’ll spot on the right hand side in the Hufflepuff section is Cedric Diggory’s jumper as worn for the Triwizard Tournament.

Hufflepuff Cedric Diggory Robes

At the end of the Great Hall the Goblet of Fire was on display with a demonstration how it works, plus an additional ring around it so nobody can take some polyjuice potion and try and swing the result. It’s a nice touch having the Fred and George mannequins either side of the goblet!

Ring around the Goblet of Fire

You get souvenir parchment at this part too.

Once you clear the Great Hall you can do the tour in your own time. This means in H’s case you have to read every – single – thing. Again. Which is okay but the staff were closing areas behind us as we had a 6.45pm slot.

Prefects bathroom taps Harry Potter

Other things on display include the taps from the prefects’ bathroom – so tiny in real life.

Golden Egg Triwizard Tournament

There’s a golden egg from the Triwizard tournament plus how they created it.

Fleur Delacour's costume

In the costume area you can see Fleur Delacour’s costume which she wore to Hogwarts for the Triwizard Tournament.

Inside Dumbledore’s office you can look into the pensieve which was fun.

Pensieve at WB Studio Tour London

One of the most fun parts of the WB Studio Tour is the photographs. Within the broomstick area you can have two different photos (and a video) – one family shot…

Or maybe just a little bit of broomstick training.

Later on as we got to Platform Nine and three Quarters we got a family shot on the train carriage. [all photos were provided to us for free]

Tom Riddle's grave

Tom Riddle’s grave is on the main floor and is the centrepiece of the area by the Forbidden Forest (it was on a ledge higher up in December). Obviously you need your photo taking with it…

H and Buckbeak

The Forbidden Forest has plenty of sound and visual effects as well as the creatures who live there – particularly Buckbeak.

From there you’re into Hogwarts Express land…

Butterbeer Ice Cream

With the Backlot Cafe the next stop on the tour. We stopped for a quick bite to eat and of course the obligatory Butterbeer. This time we all opted for ice creams and as a slightly dehydrated old lady, mine went down a treat in about ten seconds flat.

Inside the Knight Bus

Once you’re at the Backlot Cafe you’re just over half way. You can sit and relax or just wander around outside taking in the Knight Bus (peeping at the beds inside), Privet Drive and Godric’s Hollow.

Godrics Hollow at WB Studio Tour

There’s also the only section of Hogwarts Bridge made (the rest was special effects) which is fun to wander down, plus the motorbike and sidecar as favoured by Hagrid.

motorbike and sidecar WB Studio Tour

There’s also the Ford Anglia as driven by the Weasleys. Top tip – when photographing the Ford Anglia make sure you’re not too far to the right hand side.

The next area holds the special effects where H tried to get Dobby to do the Macarena again (he wasn’t playing ball) and dabbing (he did that). You’re soon at Diagon Alley and the tour is getting closer to the end.

Durmstrang Institute ship Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

A model of the Durmstrang ship which the Durmstrang Institute used to get to the Triwizard Tournament is on display. Of course, the final part is the giant Hogwarts Castle. At the front is a small model of the Beauxbatons carriage entering Hogwarts – keep an eye out!

Beauxbatons carriage Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire

As you enter the wand room you’re at the end. We spent ages looking for friends who worked on the films but only found Jarvis Cocker. It’s an impressive room with a wand for all the castmembers and people who were involved.

Oh, and right there, at the very end is the Triwizard Cup. One of several made for the films, it’s in a glass case and looks mighty splendid.

Triwizard cup

It’s also the point you’re about to enter the merchandise area. We spent a lot of money there in December so skipped this part, but for anything Hogwarts this is the place to spend your hard-earned cash.

The additions to the tour certainly do the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire book and film justice. It feels like there is they’ve included everything.

The WB Studio tour has the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire exhibition until the 23rd September 2018 – tickets are available now. We’d recommend going for early slots to get maximum Hogwarts time there!

We were given tickets to see the Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire exhibition at the WB Studio Tour. We also received photo passes, our butterbeer, food and a chocolate frog. We’ve visited twice before, so this didn’t affect our opinion in any way.

Other bloggers who were there include :
Kippers and Curtains
The Stage Mommy
Hippie in Lippy

Almost Eight and Three Quarters

Here we are, H is almost eight and three quarters, we’re heading into the home straight before she turns 9. This age is a great one – I’m finding I have a lovely sociable daughter who isn’t fazed in any way around adults and will happily join in the conversation. Sometimes she even has an opinion.

H at SSE Crystal Palace Wildcats

She’s not the most confident child, but she’s speaking out more and more. She’s had a rough time with friendships at school since September. I put a lot of that down to 8-9 year old dramas, hormones and life. Simple, right?

I’ve forgotten what it’s like to be H’s age, but do remember this was around the time we left York and moved away. Which strangely enough we’re looking at doing with several possibilities at the moment.

I love that we go shopping together, and she’ll try on clothes because she knows her style. We’ve had several shopping trips of late as she keeps growing – her new favourite shop is New Look. I quite like this as I get 10% off with my NUS card.

H is growing her hair again for the Little Princess Trust, alongside a fellow Brownie (and neighbour). We’re planning a big talent night to raise some money, Brownies & Guides Got Talent which should happen at the end of the year. I’m hoping the two girls can spur each other on – it’s such a wonderful positive thing to do.

My little swimmer is having her term of swimming lessons at school. She is in the Advanced group which is helping enhance her regular lessons. She’s working towards her Gold Award badge and is coming on really well.

Starting the zipwire at PGL Marchants Hill

I’m watching her grow. At Brownies I can see her taking on more responsibilities and helping others. At PGL I saw her grow from a girl too scared to do things to one who got on with it and did it and had the time of her life. Who went on a school residential for two nights and had a brilliant time.

SSE Women’s FA Cup Final 2018 – Arsenal v Chelsea

The Women’s FA Cup Final 2018 was a repeat of 2016, two teams we’ve seen a few times but always different. When I go to Wembley to watch the women’s game I feel safe. It’s somewhere I will go for a happy atmosphere. It is still so different to the men’s game – however, things are changing.

The Women’s FA Cup Final 2018 was Arsenal v Chelsea. That’s okay, the women’s team of both have players we like – and in H’s case, Fran Kirby. I could have sworn we’d never seen her play, but looking back to 2016, in fact we did.

Wembley Stadium from outside, in the sun, Women's FA Cup Final 2018

All we wanted to see was some great football, to enjoy the atmosphere and to get home at a reasonable time.

This time we were in Block 221, right on the back row so a decent view of the game, though to be fair you get that from most areas at Wembley. It was only later on I realised why the game was a bit earlier than usual – because it would be fitting in with Tottenham’s games at Wembley for this season. I hope they keep it at this time for future years.

Women's FA Cup Final 2018 panorama, Women's FA Cup Final 2018

We go as neutrals every year, sitting alongside supporters of both teams. Unfortunately I had a chap next to me who made it his job to boo every time Chelsea did something which got a bit tiring, especially as he was the only person doing it. We don’t need that negativity! We support football! I just clapped louder to drown him out, helped by Wembley providing everyone with pieces of foldable card. H had about five of them and it definitely drowned him out…

Mid-way through the Women’s FA Cup Final 2018 and we had no goals, and I was starting to calculate the time we’d end up getting home if it continued that way.

Fortunately Chelsea got three, Arsenal got one and the game was decided by 90 minutes. Also – Fran Kirby scored so H was delighted as it was a GREAT goal!

H with Fara Williams and Mary Earp, Women's FA Cup Final 2018
This year there was an FA Fanzone outside Wembley. We saw the new Subbuteo set which is based on our two Women’s FA Cup Final 2018 finalists. You can’t actually buy it though, only win it in giveaways. Hmm.

Fara and Mary autographs, Women's FA Cup Final 2018

We were in that area just as they announced that Fara Williams and Mary Earps, England players, would be there for autographs. H was happy as she loves being in goal and made sure she got her Wildcats buddy their autographs too. Overall there were less freebies (a good thing, we don’t need more SSE spongey things) but more things to do. The weather was perfect as well.

Wembley falafel veggie hot dog

We had food inside Wembley. Three hot dogs cost £18. Did I mention that our three tickets for the Women’s FA Cup Final 2018 cost us £15 total? We’ve been SSE customers for our gas and electricity for over 8 years, finally making use of SSE Reward. Our tickets were half price.

The FA For All

Will we be back again next year? Of course – this year had a record-breaking 45,000 supporters attending – way up on last year’s total. We wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Pointless Mini Game from University Games

We’re big Pointless fans in this house – and often play along if it’s on tv. When we were given the chance to review University Games’ Pointless Mini Game, of course we went for it.

Pointless Mini Game

The Pointless Mini Game works too. I wasn’t sure how the format of Pointless would work in a game, but it does. There are loads and loads of questions too – so less chance of you remembering the answers.

Pointless mini game scoresheet example

The game includes your main questions, cleverly in a holder which covers up the answers at the bottom of the card – you can’t turn over the card as there are more questions there. You get a pad to write your answers down on and that’s it.

Pointless Mini Game category Music

So, for example, question 1 has anagrams – you have five options. Christmas number ones, with the year. It says the game is suitable for age 12 and up, but H (age 8) got one of these straight away. Mind, I’d recommend anyone H’s age is part of a team.

Other options include initials of people or things, and titles of things with every other letter missing.

The good thing is that the quizmaster can be anyone too and you’re still part of the game.

Pointless Mini game category cities

The five answers are at the bottom of the card. Once you have written down your guess, the quizmaster reveals the answers. The Pointless score is there, and whoever has the lowest score, wins. Repeat for six rounds and that’s it.

The Pointless Mini Game works too. We played a few games yesterday, it was one of those days where you stay inside as it was getting chilly. This was by far our favourite – there was enough variety it was difficult for us all and just like Pointless, some of the most pointless answers were a big surprise.

The Pointless Mini Game is available via Amazon for just £6.99 – and I think it’s a bargain! Here’s the page on University Games.

We’re Going to Wembley Again

Not long now and we’ll be heading back to Wembley for the Women’s FA Cup Final 2018. This will be our fourth year going; I’m filled with delight that this year it’s on a different day to Eurovision. At last!

H at Wembley, football,

Tickets are on sale right now for the Cup Final, as SSE customers we bought ours via SSE Rewards – it has cost us £15 total at a 50% discount. I also entered H into a competition to be a mascot but I suspect we’ll have no luck on that front.

Things are looking interesting on the football front too; our Crystal Palace Wildcats are back after a short Easter break. It looks like SSE and the FA have put even more money into the Wildcats clubs and making even more available to join. One has even opened in Carshalton, although we’re sticking with our Caterham gang!

H at SSE Crystal Palace Wildcats

It is almost a year since H joined Wildcats. She’s still enjoying going every week, and at £3 a time it isn’t expensive. It’s also a lot more enjoyable for us parents now the weather is warmer. Standing out in the cold has been quite hard at times in the past! She has made loads of new friends. I love that she isn’t with school friends so has different circles of friends now.

Oh, and this isn’t just about H – we’ve made some friends too which is great!

We love going to Wembley. We’re sad we haven’t got to see Tottenham play there, though we’re looking forward to visiting the new White Hart Lane.

I love that more opportunities are opening up for girls, here’s our local flyer. It is worth having a go. The more groups of Wildcats girls there are, the more girls will end up playing against each other and having even more fun. Football has done wonders for H, and I’m so happy there are more groups opening up.

Crystal Palace Wildcats sessions 2018

Here’s hoping this year’s SSE Women’s FA Cup Final is a record-breaking crowd!

Wembley Stadium SSE giant sponge hands, football, Women's FA Cup Final 2015

PGL – New Experiences and an Amazing Time

You’re eight. You’re standing at the foot of a tree, a very big tree. It might be as tall as a house, maybe even taller. At the top is a ledge, a small ledge with an instructor waiting for you. All you have to do is climb to the top using the ladder and the large staples. Once you get to the top you zipwire down. Can you do it?
Climbing the tree to the zipwire at PGL Marchants Hill

That’s H’s PGL experience – or one of them – summed up.

PGL Adventure holidays are a whole new experience for us. We went to Marchants Hill for our Brownie camp, taking just ten girls. You let PGL know what sort of activities you want to do and they tailor them accordingly. We asked for confidence and team building, and on the second day we found ourselves on a foggy Sunday morning standing by the zipwire.

Starting the zipwire at PGL Marchants Hill

We were moved from the two slightly easier accessible by stairs ones – which left us unsure whether our girls would complete it. In the end only half managed – but the ones that did had the time of their life. Some girls surprised me because I didn’t think they’d do it, but they had the determination. H was one of them.

H on the zipwire at PGL Marchants Hill

It was high – any zipwire expert knows you need to start high to get a good run. H said she got half way and felt terrified. She didn’t want to continue. But then she also thought about it rationally, she didn’t want to come down either as that looked pretty difficult. So she kept on going, looked down to me when she got to the top (for reassurance) and then dealt with the final hurdle, getting off the platform. The instructor had H shouting over to the other zipwire instructor (something like “Craig is a muppet”), and once the giggles took over she was ready, and that was that.

learning how to use the zipwire at PGL Marchants Hill

That to me is what the PGL experience is about. It’s what you make it. If you want to do something then only you can be the one who does it. Being part of a team and having a go is so important. If it’s an individual task then having a go can improve your confidence.

As a leader I could have joined in but chose not to, and to make it about the girls. I tried not to help as much as possible and let them work it out. Also – my back.

quad biking at PGL Marchants Hill

Other things we did include quad biking, raft building, buggy building and problem solving. Lots of different activities which involved water, knots, working together and laughter – very important.

Quad biking fun at PGL Marchants Hill

Oh, and PGL has a songbook – you will learn many songs. They will probably involve Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups or various fizzy soft drinks. Or toilet water. Or cow poo. They will make your child feel included.

The quad bikes are limited to 10mph. Once we got there the course was pretty small as well, just the right size. This was H’s favourite activity by a mile.

raft building at PGL Marchants Hill

 

With a hearty breakfast, lunch and evening meal included we always felt well-fed and ready to face the day. You need to eat well and feed yourself more than usual as you’ll use a lot of energy walking around the PGL site. Each activity has a different instructor, and as they finish you’re returned to your main instructor who gets you to where you need to be on time.

The evening’s entertainment was organised for the girls, the first night we had a quiz night and the second a disco – this was the only time we were indoors too (apart from food breaks). This was a good excuse for us Brownie leaders to head to the bar on site and have a 30 minute break. The second night there was a free wine and cheese night – of course we went! The girls are looked after by their PGL leader and we’re always nearby thanks to it being a really well laid out area.

We visited PGL Marchants Hill for three days (two nights), at a cost of approximately £115 each. There are Girlguiding deals available. Generally for every six girls a leader goes free, and they offer additional discounts so it’s always worth asking.

When we asked each girl what they enjoyed the most about PGL everyone had something different – from learning knots and building something, to the zipwire. H’s favourite was the quad bikes!

In 2013 I Bought a Sledge from Trespass

In 2013 I bought a sledge from Trespass.

It was a winter so cold, the coldest it had been for a long time. There was so much snow. I did the sensible thing and bought a simple plastic sledge from Trespass which cost me £10.

We were ready! Ready for whatever snow came – we could go sledging!

Except the next year there was no snow.

There was also no snow the following year.

The lack of snow was getting me down a bit, almost as much as when the snow starts to melt and become slush when it does appear. To make matters worse, almost everyone else everywhere in the UK seemed to be having snow. Unfair.

The following year we had snow! Not enough to sledge in though, just enough to make the world’s tiniest snowman. So we did.

The following year? No snow, of course. The sledge was put in the loft.

It must be around 2017 now and I was starting to forget I’d even bought the sledge. It got moved to the shed, a place where even more possessions go to be forgotten over the years (but slightly more accessible).

I thought about Freecycling it. Maybe that would bring the snow back to us here?

2018. The year of the snow. Our sledge from Trespass finally made its debut.

Sledging at The Wrythe, Carshalton
Five years is a long time to not use something and for it to gather dust in a cupboard.

sledging home again on our sledge from trespass
Fortunately it has had two afternoons of optimum sledging after school. Once in Grove Park and then Carshalton Park where my daredevil child sledged down the Hog Pit Pond. It’s steep – she managed three or four goes. I missed it as I got home from work after they had left. It looks like this when there is no snow and is the place where the big bonfire happens each November as it’s such a big slope. It actually filled with water for the first time in years in 2014.

snowy air raid shelters at The Wrythe, Carshalton

We went to our local park The Wrythe, the old Air Raid Shelters made a fantastic slope, and where I was able to catch Shaun and H up to join in. H managed at least 30 goes!

Finally using the sledge from Trespass at Wrythe Green Air Raid Shelters

It’s fairly safe to say our sledge from Trespass has had a lot of use – at last!

Country Kids

That Time We Did Sutton Soup

Sutton Soup is a fantastic community led evening held in Sutton. It’s like Dragons Den without the dragons – indeed, YOU are the dragon. You get some soup and bread too.

Sutton Soup - It's amazing how a bowl of soup can help change our communities logo

Sutton Soup meets every quarter or so, is run by volunteers and is a good fun night out. Four groups pitch on the night and whoever gets the most votes gets to take away all the money. Now, if you do the maths, 200 or so people giving a suggested donation of £5 each works out at… well, a fair bit! At our night the total was just over £950 in the end.

So how does it work? Each group gets four minutes to pitch. After that you are asked up to four questions.

We bravely* stepped up in front of 200 people last week to pitch for some new camping equipment for our Brownie Unit. We also wanted to share with other units in the district, after all money is tight for everyone. In addition, we also wanted to buy a new flag as ours is quite old…. actually, it’s very old. So old that a Conservative councillor in attendance said she had probably carried it when she was a Brownie – and coincidentally she went to our unit!

The four minutes flew by – and what we thought was a carefully timed and rehearsed pitch wasn’t. We didn’t factor in laughter (yay! my joke was laughed at!!) and applause (the song at the start of our pitch) – and went slightly over by a few seconds.

At the end loads of ex-Brownies came up and chatted to us – most glad that Girlguiding still existed. Girlguiding is looking for volunteers so we brought leaflets in case anyone was interested. That’s the other thing – Sutton Soup is good for networking. Not that I’m in any way good at being at all businesslike, mind!

The next Sutton Soup is in April – you can find out more about them over at their website. It’s a great night out, you get soup and a bread roll and a really good feeling inside knowing a local cause has got some well-deserved money.

* I had a tight grip of H’s shoulders I was that nervous. Poor child!!