Nick Cope at the Royal Centre

S and I once went to a film showing of one of the Harry Potter films. People had warned us against this, saying the kids in the audience would be awful. But the children were very well behaved, unlike one woman who answered her mobile in the middle of the performance and yelled “yeah, we’re in the middle of the Quidditch match” down it. I was reminded of this incident this weekend when E and I went to the Beanbag music club at the Royal Centre in town.

I’ve blogged before about the Beanbag music sessions at the Royal Centre but what the hell, I’m going to blog about them again. This weekend’s performer was Nick Cope, singer-songwriter and former performer with Oxford band The Candyskins . It was supposed to be a family day out for all three of us but S had to stay behind to look after the plumber who turned up late with a piece of equipment he hadn’t used for 2 years and wondered why it didn’t work. The waste pipe from the washing machine still leaks. Meh.

We were slightly sidetracked on the way in because E spotted the posters for Room on the Broom which is playing at the Theatre in July (ticket bought as a birthday present. Fingers crossed it goes well. Blog post to follow.)

Anyway, despite being initially shy and nervous, E soon warmed up to the performance and was dancing and waving as soon as it started. The songs were a nice mixture of non-gender specific fun topics including one about a pirate with crumbs in his beard, another about a dragon called Keith, and one E especially enjoyed about things that grow (you had to stand up and grow tall as you sang.)

I imagine it can’t be easy being a performer to small children – their short attention spans, general fidgeting and need for crisps at inappropriate moments must make it hard to concentrate. But again, this was nothing compared to the parents. The beanbags are in the centre with seat around three sides, all facing the stage. You can sit on the beanbags with your child if you want (I did) but otherwise the children go in the middle and the parents sit and watch. Or in this case chat. I couldn’t believe the noise some of them made. One woman was actually addressed by Nick Cope during one song and was oblivious each time. Some were on their phones, others were gossiping. So incredibly rude.

On behalf of parents who were paying attention and enjoyed the performance very much I would like to apologise to Nick Cope – we had a good time. He might be used to this kind of thing. I didn’t have any cash on me to buy any of the CDs on offer but have since bought two from his website for E’s birthday, although I may give them to her a little early so we can take them on holiday with us.

The performances last nearly an hour and once this had finished (with a song where all the children had to dress like Nick in glasses and play cardboard guitars) they were all allowed to go and make masks of Beany bear (who leads the sessions) and decorate them with stickers. E was well into the session by now and happily covered her mask with dinosaurs, stars and a jolly roger.

We phoned S when we came out and E told him all about how she’d been dancing. We even managed to remember some of the words to sing in the bath later on as well.

The next Beanbag music club is at the Royal Centre on 23 May

Nick Cope next performs in Nottingham on 27 September at Stapleford Community Centre

Details of Nick’s music and performances can be found at his website.

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A natural, zesty enterprise

I’m afraid the time has come – I’m going to talk about genitals. Or rather, I’m going to sound silly while talking about genitals.

I’ve been pondering this blog post for a while. E likes to know what her body parts are called and I must say, I’ve been trying to work out if I am more glad that she’s a girl because she might not get too in depth for a while or sorry that she’s a girl because at least the word ‘willy’ is easy to deal with.

We talk about her bottom or her bum, and she is very fond of pointing to her nipples. So far so good. But what should we call her genitals?

I must confess, I don’t really have a preferred name for mine. There are a whole range of names – from the profane through the clinical to the twee, and I don’t like any of them. I even had a female doctor once call them “down there” with a wave of her hand so this is clearly not just my problem.

Earlier this year there was a brief hoo-haa (another favoured term for some, I believe) over a Swedish children’s television programme which depicted cartoon versions of smiling dancing genitals, called Willy and Twinkle. I rather liked it – the song was celebrating differences and was hilariously bad but rather sweet. (You can watch it here.) But again, Twinkle? Not keen.

Slang is out – women’s parts are either porno (pussy), too rude (c*%^) or icky (lady garden). All of them either degrade or objectify women or they shy away and feel prudish. Any seasoned feminist will tell you this is a result of regarding women as second class citizens and we either need to reclaim these words from the porn and profane way they’re used (easier said than done) or, perhaps better, come up with something else.

And so I turn to clinical names, which I confess I hate. Vagina anyone? The only time it sounds good is when Maude Lebowski talks about it. Vulva? Again all I have is a modern cultural reference – Friends this time.

But then I read this article about the effects of teaching children properly about their bodies and how it can help protect them against abuse. And I also think that beyond abuse, if I want E to have a healthy attitude to her body and self image then the very least I can do is be able to talk to her about it and not feel silly. So vagina it is. At least this way I get to pretend to be Maude for a while. And who wouldn’t want that?



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Is your child dog friendly?


Dogs – bloody brilliant

We don’t have a dog. I’d like one but we’re not home enough, it’s small enough in here as it is and there are days when I’m just not going to want to take it for a walk. Plus I think I’m hair intolerant these days. (Though we could get a Labradoodle which don’t moult…) So we don’t have one. But both sets of grandparents have dogs, and both S and I grew up with them.

I’d like E to be comfortable with dogs and not be scared of them. I’ve seen some friends who aren’t certain what to do around dogs or who are scared for no real reason except that they think they should be. Dogs are the loveliest creatures around – full of unconditional love, funny, and intelligent (mostly) enough to do things like help people with disabilities or sniff out bombs and drugs. But it’s rare to see anything more widely about dogs that isn’t negative. Stories of maulings are strong tabloid fodder and the top most complaint to councils is about dog crap all over pavements.

Neither of these things are the fault of the dogs themselves. Don’t get me started on dog owners. (I spent half a day shadowing the council’s dog protection unit at work yesterday and was upset yet not surprised at the dreadful attitudes displayed by some people to their hounds. I got all Tory about suitable punishments for these people. “Hangings too good for them” and all that. But honestly.)

Nevertheless, despite all our family dogs being docile and friendly types, E needs to know how to treat them to make sure that she never sees their natural dog side. And hopefully she’ll grow up knowing how fabulous it is to have a dog friend and companion. So I need to show her how to treat them with respect and common sense.

So I’m glad that Dogs Trust has started a new campaign ‘Be Safe Around Dogs.’ They are offering Dog Smart workshops for parents and children in schools, libraries and community centres. Or you can download a ‘Be Dog Smart’ guide from the internet to get a whole range of tips about teaching children to be safe around dog friends. It offers advice on how to prepare a dog for a new baby in the house, how to read the signals your dog may give out and what to do if your child is scared of dogs.

The Be Dog Smart guide is free to download and should be required reading for all parents, with or without dogs. You can find it here:



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I had a moment on Easter Sunday which you will only appreciate if you too have a full time job, a small child and no one locally who can just pop in to help.

S was doing something, possibly having a shower, and E was with her grandpa who read all her library books. Which left me to go into the garden and plant out Easter eggs for our hunt. It was a chilly morning, but there were blue skies and I was accompanied by a range of lovely birdsong. The garden is a large one, with only a few formal bits and I had a lot of eggs to distribute – E’s grandpa having already gone out to plant their eggs. I wandered round, placing eggs (and stickers and hair clips) in trees and under bushes.

The moment lasted maybe only 15 minutes and I made an unlikely Easter bunny. But for those 15 minutes I had a lovely sense of warmth, peace and happiness – all just for me. You don’t get this kind of thing often when you have someone around who follows you to the toilet. Even if you say “I’m just popping upstairs, I’ll be back in a minute,” she stands at the bottom of the stairs and yells “MUMMY!” or she starts to climb the stairs to be with you.

Don’t get me wrong, I love being with her. But those 15 minutes were such a treat.

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Crafty dolls – a review

My mum bought me a copy of a book Crafty Dolls by Jane Bull for Christmas. It contains templates, ideas and instructions to make your own soft dolls. Knowing I liked sewing and had a lot of materials at home, she thought it would be fun to make E some dolls.

I made E a girl doll complete with top, skirt, jumper, jeans, pjs and a pirate outfit. I invented the pirate outfit (which is why the hat is too big) but the other clothes were in the book. There were a few mistakes in the instructions (I double checked as I’m pretty slapdash on occasion and wanted to be sure it wasn’t me, but no, there are some mistakes in the patterns) but the clothes themselves are easy enough to adapt.



I got the book out again for Easter gifts for my nephew and niece. My nephew had shown an interest in the book when I looked through it at Christmas and I asked him if he’d like a doll. He liked the superhero doll. The superhero doll in the book is knitted but I decided my nephew J might like the pirate outfit I made for E too so I decided to make him a regular cloth doll and make a range of outfits, including a superhero. That way he could change.

Here he is: P1040591 (600x800) P1040587 (600x800)














My niece is only 6 months old (another E) so I decided one of those upside-down dolls might be fun for her and they had a Cinderella doll in the book. This was harder to do but hopefully it works. Here she is:





And finally, I decided to complete the project I would write them a story to go with their dolls. J’s story is called The Adventures of Captain Superbilly and is about a small boy trying to decide between being a superhero and a pirate when he grows up. E’s book was a slight retelling of Cinderella (I was asked not to make it too feminist – it’s probably the least feminist fairytale ever, I did my best to change the worst bits but it’s an uphill battle. My sister doesn’t mind her heroines hopeless and passive.)

The instructions are worth reading through properly before you make the dolls up (which should go without saying) and I recommend drawing the faces on before sewing. But the book is pretty easy to follow and the patterns are flexible enough for you to make adjustments if you want (not counting the mistakes). The patterns are easy enough to be done with minimal sewing skills but again, if you like sewing and know how to adjust you can do more (I like things neatly hemmed if possible and so on…)

E loves her dolly and likes to change her outfits regularly, or more often just take all the clothes off and get me to replace hem. I will adjust some more patterns for more costumes as she gets bigger and can do some f this herself. A supergirl costume seems inevitable and I’m wondering how easy an astronaut would be…

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You lift me up

E has been potty trained for months now but has been going to bed in a nappy each night. I read somewhere that it was easier to night train children after the age of three and put off the evil task. In the intervening months I have completely forgotten how we trained her at all.

Anyway, with her third birthday fast approaching I broached the subject with her. She was keen to try wearing pants to bed and not her bedtime nappy. The trick, it seems, is to do something called “lifting” which involves waking the child up and making them go to the toilet in the middle of the night. Some say to completely wake them so that they register something is going on and their mind acts accordingly, and others say they sleep-walked their child to the toilet.

Here are my tips:

First up, if you’re going to do anything which risks there being a lot of extra washing – bed sheets, pyjama bottoms and so on, it’s probably best not to pick a week where the washing machine is out of action.

Second, lifting requires diplomacy and skill. None of the books cover this. You remember to bring the potty into their room (if you’re on a good day), wake them and they flop on your shoulder. You wrestle with their pyjama bottoms, whispering things in their ear but they’re essentially dead weight and it’s seemingly impossible to register that they must do anything different. It is at the moment when you think you’ve got control of their sleepy body that they wake, realise what you’re trying to do, their face contorts and they yell “no I don’t want to go on the potty!” and “I just want to go back to bed,” in a pathetic voice and you feel like a monster parent. This feeling will pass when you strip the wet bed the following morning.

So, I have been taking E’s pyjamas and pants down while she’s still lying in bed, rolling her so that I can just pull her down onto the potty from the bed and holding her from behind in a big hug as she wees.

Last night this all worked smoothly.

The problems are twofold, aside from the lifting. She often wees in her sleep, completely relaxed and doesn’t have any control over it. I guess this is where the lifting eventually comes in and sends signals that this is not right but we’re not there yet.

The other problem is that many potty training guides tell you that children won’t like being wet and this will help in training. On Saturday morning, while I was still asleep, E weed herself, moved to another part of the bed, weed again and then lay there perfectly happily until I came in to see her. *sigh*

On the plus side, I can recommend Ikea’s waterproof-but-not-nasty-squeaky-plastic mattress protector.

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To do or not to do?

So yesterday I was talking about the importance to me of having a decent split of housework duties for many families in keeping your relationship alive. But I’m also interested to know how other people manage this, practically, especially if they have very different routines to us. So I gave fellow blogger Dadblog a lot of attention when he posted up a list the other week. A list of his 21 things to do on a Sunday to ensure the family are ready to go for the week. It turns out he does most of these things EVERY DAY. You can read the list here.

I don’t know about you, but I have a vague sense of disquiet at reading this. (I should add a disclaimer, Dadblogger is a stay at home dad. I am not a stay at home mum and S is not a stay at home dad. We both have paid work so therefore we both share the housework. He also has double the number of children I have and one of his is at school so their requirements are different. But still.) I say disquiet, it’s more of a “Do I do this? Should I do this? Dear god, this is far more than I will ever manage, now I feel hopelessly inadequate” kind of feeling.

I decided to do a list of my own. What is it that I do each night to prepare? How do I stay on top of things? Can I make 21 separate points?

Sunday night:

  • Washing – Clothes will have been done over the weekend. Beds may or may not have been changed, towels will probably have been changed. These bigger things have probably not been washed yet unless it’s summer and I can get them dry on the line outside.
  • Ironing – for me and E. I don’t iron for S and never have. Plus he doesn’t have a job that requires pressed clothes.
  • Lunch – I will make a pot of something for the week and put it in the fridge for us both to take to work and have reheated as a main meal at work. We have snacks in the evening which we prepare separately.
  • Check nursery bag for spare clothes.

Daily (work days):

  • Breakfast pot – I will put my breakfast for the next work day together in the little two-tiered pot I have (muesli, grapes and yoghurt)
  • Work bag – I add an apple, my reusable coffee cup, cutlery for lunch and any notebooks and books I want to take to the office into my work bag. I also check to make sure my tram pass and work pass are in my handbag.
  • I charge my phone


  • Supermarket online order placed to be delivered on Thursday.

At some point in the week I may also do another load of washing too. If E comes home in her change of clothes then I will put some new clothes in her bag but otherwise I don’t bother to check it every day. If my shoes are obviously dirty they get cleaned if I remember, otherwise I stare at them askance in the morning and maybe give them a quick going over with a wet wipe.

S usually hoovers the house at the weekend, and every day makes sure the washing up is done in the evening. He gets his stuff ready for work each morning when he gets up. Between us at some point we will put the clean kitchen stuff away in cupboards.

Eight distinct points. And few more ‘possibly’ points. Eight. There was me thinking I was sooooooo organised. I have a lot to learn.

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