Friday, 20 July 2012

Review: Sub 0 G luggage at Matalan

It was my birthday last Thursday. There's a tendency when you get to my age to try and forget about birthdays but when family and friends make a fuss with cards, presents and messages and when the sun actually makes an unexpected appearance, well maybe this birthday lark is something to smile about.

Having spent a morning in town spending some of my birthday money, Mum and I had a relaxing afternoon in the garden drinking Pimms, having ridiculous conversations and soaking up a few rays of sunshine before the clouds returned. En route to the fridge for a top-up, I stopped to check my emails and was quite delighted at one which, having wished me a Happy Birthday, asked me if I'd like to choose and review some travel items from Matalan. It was at this point that Mum became very animated and reminded me that the case she had brought with her had been bought from her local Matalan in Newcastle. She loves it: a light, spacious, robust piece of luggage called Sub 0 G. My brother had even borrowed it for a long-haul flight to Malaysia and it coped admirably.

For the uninitiated, Sub 0 G cases are the world's lightest structured cases, extremely well-designed and very strong. Dougie and I already own two of their very small cabin cases which are perfect for stringent airline regulations. We took them to Madrid and I managed to squeeze a full three-days worth of clobber in mine.

So would I like to choose some travel items from Matalan? Absolutely! The website was very easy to navigate and, with Mum's help, a tape-measure and using her case as a guide, I chose the following two cases which will be perfect for trips where a cabin case isn't quite big enough. Both the cases are labelled 'small' but as they measure externally 65.5 x 41 x 23.5cm they are actually pretty big. Weighing only 1.78kg and with a capacity of 53 litres, it's a perfect size and would have been ideal for the BritMums Live conference when my teeny-tiny case just couldn't cope with the extra goodies I had to take home.

Conscious that these cases may well be swirling round an airport carousel at some point in the future, I chose designs which will hopefully stand out: apple and snake.

Sub 0 G  Small case - Apple
Sub 0 G Small case - Snake

I pored over other items on their site and was very tempted by Havaiana flip-flops but, in the end, picked three beach towels in blue, aqua and lime. These have obviously proved very popular, only the lime seems to be available now.

So thank you to Matalan for the unexpected birthday presents: certainly the icing on the cake for me.


Monday, 16 July 2012

A conversation I wish I'd never started: No 6

Regular readers will know this feature on my blog usually involves my inability to finish sentences or think of people's names when talking with my teenage son. In a recent twist, I also had a ridiculous conversation with my husband about Radio 2 DJs. However it is unusual for both parties in the discussion to suffer from the same affliction.

Without further ado, I give you the 'Conversation I wish I'd never started' starring my mother.

Mum: Have you seen that annoying advert on the telly with the mother of that presenter?
Me: Which presenter?
Mum: Good-looking bloke.  Married to the woman who does Dancing on Ice.
Me: Holly Willoughby? I didn't know her husband was a presenter? Are you not thinking of the bloke she does that morning programme with?
Mum: Oh, what's his name again? Paul something?
Me: Oh I can see him...grey hair, little chap.
Mum: Philip..
Me: Philip....Philip Schofield?
Mum: Yes, but it's not him. He's tall with a Yorkshire accent.
Me: Oh I know who you mean. What's he called? Vernon!
Mum: Vernon Kay!Yes, that's him.
Me: He's not married to Holly Willoughby.
Mum: Well he's married to that blonde woman who does the dancing on ice.
Me: No, he's married to the blonde woman who does Strictly Come Dancing.
Mum: What's her name then?
Me: Oh god, what is it now?

Rory (shouting through from the living room) : For god's sake! Tess Daly! Married to Vernon Kay. And he's not from Yorkshire, he's from Bolton, Lancashire.

Me: So what's the advert for?
Mum: No idea, but I can't stand it anyway.


Thursday, 12 July 2012

Happy Birthday to Me!

You know your child has got you well and truly sussed when they give you this card for your birthday....


Saturday, 7 July 2012

Man and Boy

The end of an era? The little boy on the left starting his reception class with a big smile and a neat uniform. The young man on the right, at the end of Year 11, aged 16, with a wry smile, a smart dinner suit, hands in his pockets...and a lot more hair. And look, old kitchen and new kitchen!

Last night was Prom night and, for most young people in the UK now, this has become a big event. It's at times like this I'm glad I have a son, as the expense was purely hiring the dinner suit. Talking to mums of girls, the costs can spiral with frocks, hair-dos, shoes, make-up and jewellery, for what is, as Rory said this morning, "a hyped up school disco".

Rory's Prom is a joint event in Spalding for the four main secondary schools in the town. Rory thankfully wanted little fuss: no limo or quirky means of transport. Can we just drop him and his mates near the entrance and he can walk in? Well we nearly ended up in the procession and quickly managed to turn off and park, which was just as well as Dougie wasn't dressed as a chauffeur and the car wasn't exactly showroom clean. So we parked up, the boys tipped out, and we watched the procession. Limos, sports cars, old buses, scooters, a Hell's Angels type entourage, a shopping trolley, tractors, horse and carriage and the Mystery Machine complete with Scooby-Doo in the front seat. It must have taken about an hour and a half for all the vehicles to drive into the venue, drop off, photos, then off again.

A few hours at the prom and a quick change for the 'after-prom party'. More worry as my son and his friends assured me they were 'on the list' for a huge party at a friend-of-a-friend. Two very tolerant, some might say crazy parents, had set up marquees and a band for an all-nighter.

My son eventually returned home at 8am; picked up by his friend's mum who offered to do that part of the taxi service. We had experienced torrential rain all day until about 5pm last night when the gods were kind and offered us some sun, but of course it was soaking wet underfoot, so Rory came home caked in mud. A shower, quick breakfast and bed, where, at 1pm now, he remains.

My baby is safe and sleeping and I can breathe a sigh of relief.


Friday, 6 July 2012

Mama says...go and see Footloose!

Let's here it for the boys....and girls of Limelight Youth Theatre, for a fantastic opening night of their production of Footloose at the South Holland Centre, Spalding

A talented group, aged 11 to 17 years, took to the stage last night and wowed the audience with a performance full of energy, slick dancing and faultless singing.

I remember the movie, on which the stage production is based, back in 1984, with Kevin Bacon and Lori Singer in the lead roles. I even saw the  professional West End production of the musical in 2006. So, no pressure guys! But I have such admiration for the Limelight kids: I've watched them for many years now and even helped to judge their talent show last year. I knew they wouldn't disappoint: they learn all aspects of their art from an early age and their director, Darren Maddison, would be working them hard.

Footloose tells the story of Ren McCormack who moves from Chicago to middle-of-nowhere Bomont with his mother, Ethel, after his father leaves them. Ren struggles with the petty laws of the town, particularly the one banning dancing, and seeks to change the outlook of the small-minded Town Council and local preacher, Reverend Shaw Moore.

The singing throughout this production, from the strong leads Ren and Ariel (Jordan Howlett and Gabby Huggins), down to each member of the ensemble, was excellent, even more so when you consider many of the numbers involve a huge amount of dancing at the same time: it takes stamina and good breath control to make this work without running out of puff. The big dance numbers, Holding out for a Hero, Hoedown Throw Down and  Let's Hear it for the Boy, were brilliant to watch and listen to: the audience were treated to huge smiles, tight choreography and harmonious, powerful voices.

Limelight performers also know how to work the ballads too. Learning to be Silent, sung by Amy Mann, Abbie Shrimpton and Gabby Huggins was beautiful and pitch perfect. A special mention for Amy Mann, playing Ariel's mother, Vi Moore, whose exceptional plaintive voice, with just a touch of feather-light vibrato, made the song Can you find it in your Heart, one of the highlights for me.

There were some great comic moments too. Beth Mason and Kieran Watson were well paired as Rusty and Willard: I loved them. And Chuck's sidekicks Lyle and Travis (Josh Newton and Alistair Hastings) prove you can shine even in minor roles. The bad boy character, Chuck, was played with just the right amount of menace by Niall Dignall: great casting, there.

But Footloose is all about the dancing so everyone in the group numbers needs to be congratulated for their levels of energy which made this show such a success. Coupled with great visual projection wizardry and a simple but effective set, the production was top notch.

Mama says.... put on your leg-warmers and ra-ra skirt, and get along to the South Holland Centre tonight, Friday 6 July (7pm) or tomorrow Saturday 8 July (2pm and 7pm). These young kids will lift your spirits and your heart.

Thanks to Polka Dot Academy and Limelight Youth Theatre for inviting me to come and see the show. Tickets are available from the South Holland Centre Box Office


Monday, 2 July 2012

July travel round-up for BritMums

My latest travel round-up for BritMums is live on their website today: Camping, Cornwall and Cologne.

There are links to posts from the following blogs: Mummy from the Heart, Mostly Yummy Mummy, Random Rantings of a Tattooed Mummy, Oh The Places We Will Go, Funky Wellies' Random Thoughts, The Potty Diaries, Sticky Fingers, Are We Nearly There Yet Mummy and Bloggertropolis. 

Happy reading!


Sunday, 1 July 2012

Mum's gone to The Hoxton Hotel, London

Double bedroom at the Hoxton Hotel, London

The Hoxton has established itself as a chic place to stay in London; a choice for the cool and trendy looking for a reasonably priced bed for the night without compromising on style and comfort.

I only spent a night in this hotel, while staying over for the BritMums Live conference, so my impressions are based on a very quick stay.

Booking: A dream. Easy to book online and very efficient when discussing booking by telephone. I initially booked a double room at a cost of £129 per night. This was cheaper than a double room had been for the Premier Inn at Westminster a few months ago. Payment must be made up front but you can change the dates, if you pay a fee of £15. The biggest surprise for me was, a month after booking, I noticed a refund of £30 to my credit card from the hotel. I was puzzled but it seems the cost of that night had been reduced and they automatically gave me back the difference. Can't imagine many hotels would do that. So the cost is now a very reasonable £99.

Location: In Shoreditch, near to the City of London and five minutes walk from Old Street underground station. The area immediately surrounding the hotel isn't particularly striking, though I didn't really explore too much.

Room: Larger than I had expected for central London. Comfortable bed, air-conditioning, a proper wardrobe, safe, tea and coffee making facilities. Loved the small fridge with a couple of complimentary bottles of water and half a pint of fresh milk. How refreshing not to have the extortionate mini-bar where you daren't touch the bottles for fear of 'buying' them. There was free wi-fi throughout the hotel with no complicated password. Hoorah! 
Bathroom was exceptionally clean with a proper-sized bar of Pears soap and a decent amount of fluffy white towels. Shower was easy to operate, hot and not caked in limescale. 
I had a quiet room on the fourth floor, at the back of the hotel looking into the courtyard. I have heard from friends that some of the rooms were noisy, particularly above the bar area which can get very lively at night.

Breakfast: Included in the room price is a 'lite Pret Breakfast' consisting of orange juice, a granola yoghurt pot and a banana. This hit the spot very nicely as I knew I had pastries waiting for me at the conference. A more substantial breakfast can be taken in the Hoxton Grill.

Is it child-friendly? Although cots and extra beds are available, the hotel doesn't really have an atmosphere ideal for families with small children; the music in the reception area in the evening, and the people spilling out onto the pavement, could be a bit unnerving. However parents of teens will gain brownie points for taking their kids somewhere that's cool. 

Customer Service: Excellent on the telephone, friendly and efficient on reception. No complaints. 

Would I go again? The last time I stayed in London we chose a hotel within walking distance from the West End so we were able to do most of our sightseeing on foot. I did like that. But the Hoxton is certainly worth considering as it has really made the effort to provide customers with a much higher quality of hotel experience than the price would suggest. For that reason, it's a hit with me.