Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Mum's Gone to London - Shepherd's Bush and Avenue Q

In an effort to find something different for our 13 year old son who has 'done' the Science Museum, the Eye and the London Dungeon on previous visits, I really came up trumps with two fantastic activities for our second day in London.

Whilst browsing on the internet, or should I say, manically searching for things to entertain a teenager, I discovered that the BBC offers tours around the TV Centre. At less than half the price of bloody Ripley's Believe it or Not (see last post), £9.50 for adults, £7 for children, this seemed like excellent value for money. Children have to be 9 years or over to go on the tour, though there are also CBBC tours for children aged 7 and over.

We had booked online for the 11am tour but turned up early to sit in reception to watch stars go by. In reality there seemed to be a succession of backroom staff, or else I'd just not seen them before. A very famous handsome black actor sat in reception for a while but I couldn't work out who he was. Suggestions please on very tall man with gorgeous deep, English voice?

The highlights of the tour were:
1. Looking at the studio of Mock the Week as they were rehearsing (the comedians rehearse all day with the questions so that they can perfect their 'off the cuff' answers....!)
2. Some of our group having a go at presenting the weather and a news bulletin
3. Sitting in the men's dressing room for Strictly Come Dancing (unfortunately empty at the time)
4. Getting the low-down on diva celebrities like J-Lo who insisted she be given an all-white dressing room. Yes she could but this is the Beeb so she had to pay for it herself.
5. Seeing Eastender Archie's blood-splattered jumper (see photo)

I can't recommend the tour enough: so informative, such a laugh and great value. Son loved it.

Son also adored our theatre trip to see Avenue Q. A musical Sesame Street for adults (recommended 12 plus) I had heard good things about it but wasn't familiar with the songs. We managed to get fantastic front row dress circle seats with (though in hindsight I should have logged onto my new Kidstart account to get a little bit of money back too) and the show was one of the funniest, rudest musicals I've ever seen. With very funny but clever songs about internet porn, racism and homosexuality, the mix of puppets and human characters made it a real treat. Son Rory laughed like a drain and declared it the best musical he's ever seen and "so much better than the other ones you drag me to see".

What's not to love about a huge monster puppet singing the words:

"Me up all night honking me horn to porn, porn, porn!"

(photo from

Monday, 22 February 2010

Mum's Gone to London - Martinis and chastity belts

'City view' it said, when I booked the hotel. Indeed. We could just about see some of the landmark London buildings but only when the eye travelled past the glaringly obvious sight of Waterloo Station. If our son had been six again and fond of choo-choos then this would be kiddie heaven. Pretty cool at night though.

Amazingly the double-glazing was so thick that we couldn't hear a thing from our room on the 12th floor. The positives of the Park Plaza County Hall hotel definitely outweighed the negatives. Very much a family friendly hotel, most rooms, like ours, had a lounge area with sofa bed and a kitchenette with microwave and coffee machine. Not sure why there were scales in the bathroom. The last thing you want to be doing on holiday is getting hung up about the effect of those extra croissants you managed to secrete into a napkin at breakfast.

Our son, Rory, has a typical boyish fascination for all things gruesome, so was very keen to see Ripley's Believe it or Not Museum. I wasn't so keen after I'd seen the cost of admission. I managed to find some online deals: a 20% discount voucher from Discount Britain or 10% off if you buy the tickets online from Ripleys itself. I decided, oddly enough, to go for the 10% option to save queuing in the freezing cold. Bad decision. I waved my online ticket at the woman on the door, expecting to be ushered through, only to be told I still had to queue with everyone else. I seethed for the rest of the day at my wasted 10%.

Rory loved the museum and I admit there were some great exhibits - the Swarovski crystal covered Mini, the shrunken heads and an interesting collection of tribal cod-pieces. There was also a photo opportunity with a chastity belt which I declined. As Rory had the camera that day I felt I could hardly ask him to do the honours while his mother straddled a huge pair of metal knickers.

Some of the exhibits, though entertaining, were copies of originals or dummies of people from history with goggly eyes or large appendages like the chap opposite. An upmarket P. T. Barnum's really. Didn't he invent the phrase "There's a sucker born every minute"?

After a relentless search of Regent Street and Oxford Street to look for clothes for a gangly teenage boy (there's a gap in the market, somebody fill it please!!)  we started back to the hotel but not before spotting Margaret from The Apprentice waiting for a bus.

An hour or two back at the hotel was bliss just watching the Winter Olympics and scoffing complimentary shortbread biscuits (they're free so I'm eating them).

We found a lovely local Italian for dinner then retired to the bar for a nightcap. Rory wandered back to the room leaving Mum and Dad to order ridiculous cocktails. The speciality was Martini variations. Husband Dougie picked a Vesper which sounded cool and 007-ish but turned out to be like neat meths. Mine, Coco Crumble, was very girly with vanilla vodka, amaretto, cinnamon syrup and apple juice. Dougie thought this sounded vile but he had to admit that it beat his into a cocked hat on the taste front.

Half an hour later we are cloaked in an alcohol-induced warm fuzziness and feeling nicely smoochy.

My mobile beeps. A text from the boy:

 "Where RU? Uv bn gone 4 ages!!!"

Saturday, 20 February 2010

Mum's Gone to the Whorehouse again!

Anyone just stumbling upon this post might be either shocked or mildly aroused by this title. Let me dampen your ardour a little.

Blogging friends may well remember I auditioned for our local am-dram production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas and got the cameo/chorus role of Angel, streetwise city prostitute escaping from the clutches of her abusive pimp....!

You'll be pleased to know that rehearsals are going well. I visit the Whorehouse regularly on a Tuesday and Thursday evening like some middle-aged female Mr Benn, transformed into a tart for the night before returning home as mild-mannered housewife. Husband rather disappointed that I don't seem to be earning anything and remonstrates with me that I'm obviously not trying hard enough. However he has brightened up recently as my costume of mini-skirt, fishnets, blonde wig and thigh length boots have taken up residence in the spare room.

My other role in the society is publicity. We have a fantastic local photographer, Julian Wheeler, who designs our posters and programmes. His usual clientele are glamour models so our choice of show this year was right up his alley.

Julian and I have been mulling over ideas for the poster so I took along some of my costume and props to give him some inspiration. Funnily enough this was just the kind of spark he needed and, as we didn't have the time or cash to get one of his models to pose, yours truly had to step up to the plate and do the honours.

So, fanfare please......I can now reveal the image which will be the basis for the poster and programme. I'm not telling anyone in the society that the woman is me: just seeing how long it will be before they suss it out.

It's not often you get the chance in life to pose like a glamour girl. All I can say is, thank goodness for Photoshop.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Where am I? - No:2

Ooh a tough one this week I think. Let's have your guesses as to where this photo was taken and I'll let you know the answer tomorrow.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Son says "Jump!"

(published today on Mad Manic Mamas)

8.15 this morning, I manage to shove my 13 year old out the door, wave at the window then breathe. I fasten my dressing gown belt a bit tighter, pull up a chair and decide to treat myself to some blog reading.

Five minutes later my mobile rings. It’s the boy.

Him: “I’m on my way home. It’s non-uniform day for Haiti. Get some clothes ready for me”

Me: “Oh right. Will do”.

I run upstairs, pulling off dressing gown and kicking off slippers as I go, race into his room to find jeans, different socks, suitable T-shirt. Then it dawns on me there is no way he is going to get changed in time to go back out and walk to the bus stop again. So run into my room, yank pyjamas off, find knickers, pull them on, inside out, discover they’re from yesterday. Bugger. Find jeans, jumper, look in mirror, shriek, boy yells up the stairs, changes into clothes. I get car keys, find boots, coat, get car out of garage, yell at boy who is rearranging his hair and deciding which trainers look best. Swear. Order him to the car. Drive to bus-stop. Bus already gone. Swear again. Drive 20 minutes through heavy traffic into town, hoping I’m not recognised. Get to school, late and frazzled.

Me: “So was it really that important for you to change into non-uniform?”

Him: “Yeah….I joined a Facebook group yesterday called ‘Don’t you always laugh at the kid who turns up in uniform on non-uniform day’.

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Wordless Wednesday - Where am I?


The question for today is where was this picture taken? Have a guess and I'll let you know soon.

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Saturday Seconds

When I started this blog last November I uploaded all my travel diaries. Most of these have never been read as it's only recently, since joining British Mummy Bloggers, that I've found some blogging mates to link up with. So I thought I might use the weekend for giving an old post an airing, a favourite that deserves a second go. Feel free to join in................

 Mum's Gone to Iceland - whale-watching

Our whale watching trip is back on today as the sun is shining. Last night felt very bloated as, to put it politely, I've not been very "regular" this holiday, somewhat surprising considering the frightening experiences I've had so far. Nevertheless, have a rummage through Hubby's huge box of potions and lotions and thankfully find some laxatives so I'm hoping for some results today!

WHALE WATCHING.......a female Blue Whale and calf spotted off the North coast of Iceland.

We arrive early for our 12 o'clock sailing so a visit to Cafe Skuld beckons. Hubby and son not hungry but I can't resist a jammy doughnut to keep me going. Looking forward to the free hot chocolate and cinnamon pastries on board too. As we wait to embark the other passengers from the 9 o'clock sailing are just getting off. There is something strangely quiet about them: I reckon it must be pretty cold out there and they are feeling rather numb. So as soon as we board I make sure I grab a full-length bright blue coat to give me another layer of protection (on top of numerous tops, fleeces and ski jacket). I look absolutely ridiculous once again (even worse than the horse-riding gear from Day 2) but I'm warm!

As we set off the view across the bay is beautiful and we're very excited at the possibility of spotting a humpback or minke whale. But two minutes into the journey the excitement turns to nausea. The guide had mentioned that anyone feeling seasick should sit at the back of the boat and until then I hadn't even considered seasickness. All the photos on the website  show relatively calm waters so, despite the fact that we're not far from the Arctic Circle, I had anticipated a smooth journey. Foolish woman! I desperately keep my eyes focused on the horizon in an attempt to ignore the movement in my stomach. I begin to feel hot and sweaty so coat, hat and gloves are abandoned and everything else unzipped. Husband suggests we sit in the stern so we all move down and as soon as we get there I vomit over the side. The rest of the boat are peering out to look for whales: I'm watching the jammy doughnut as it sails away.

The feeling of nausea is so bad I don't think I've ever felt so ill: childbirth seems preferable at this point. The boat continues to pitch and roll furiously, the waves smash against the side and I'm continually retching and moaning. Unfortunately it's at this juncture that my body remembers it's had a good dose of senna the night before! As I heave over the side I suddenly feel a loosening at the other end! OH MY GOD! Where's the loo and can I get to it in time? If I have to move more than a few steps I'm going to be in serious trouble that even my waterproof trousers will be hard-pressed to contain. But I'm saved by the loo being only a short stagger from where I am. I make it just in time, though hubby is laughing outside as he can see my feet poking out the sides of the cubicle at such an odd angle it looks like I've collapsed in there. Well that's not far from the truth.

When I return to my station I discover my son is also throwing up. Husband spends the remaining three hours (yes....THREE) holding onto the pair of us to stop us falling overboard and trying not to be ill himself. The stern is now a mini sick bay as several other green-faced travellers have joined us and I'm certain the guide only tells you to sit there to avoid other passengers getting covered in the downwind detritus. Whilst everyone else is cheering because a humpback whale has just surfaced, I can't even raise my eyes to look; I'm passed caring. I'm not sure how many takers there are for the cinnamon pastries: I reckon one batch must keep them going all week.

As we return to the relative calm of the harbour the guide says, "You were very lucky, it was very rough on the earlier sailing". LUCKY?! Then I remember the blank looks of the previous passengers and it all makes sense.......cold indeed!! Another visit to harbour toilet en route to the car then a very quiet drive back to Hotel Reynihlid.

Husband deposits his grim-looking family in the room then realises, in his rush to get back and his usual faffing about re-packing the car, he has left our son's rucksack in the car park at Husavik, complete with Nintendo DS, mobile phone, books etc. Son howls and husband turns round, gets back in the car and has another 45 minute drive back the way we came to search for bag. Thankfully bag is safe and well: some kind soul has placed it on a nearby wall. Heartening to realise the Icelanders and our fellow holiday-makers are such good, trusting people. Hubby does his sixth Husavik to Myvatn run in three days and seems to get back to us in a far shorter time than it should have taken him....methinks he was a teensy bit faster on those gravel sections without me squawking at him from the back seat.

At dinner this evening I am still a bit fragile but as we had booked early the waiter tells us we get a free cocktail of the day.

"Sex on the Beach?", he asks me .

"After the day I've had!?'ll be bloody lucky mate!!" I mutter.

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Mum's 'Wordless Wednesday' holiday memories

I thought I'd join in the "Wordless Wednesday" postings by finding a photo from past holidays each week. Since this blog started as a travel diary and at the moment I'm sitting in the kitchen not going anywhere, bar contemplating a trip to Tesco, this is the perfect way to remember a time and a place. This photo is from last summer's holiday on Lake Garda, Italy. We visited Sirmione, a gorgeous town, perfect in every way, and yet we came across this little group in the village square. No idea why they were there but they made us smile.....seeemples! (note to self: this is meant to be wordless, hence the title, so zip it!)