Saturday, 26 July 2014

Going Wild On Safari At Hamleys Toy Store In Cardiff


We were lucky enough to win tickets to a Hamleys Safari Party, so Caitlin, Ieuan and I went along ready to enjoy ourselves at the Cardiff branch of one of the World's favourite toy stores.


Barnaby and Matilda meet the explorers


The animals were everywhere

We were met by explorers Barnaby and Matilda and the brave party, comprising six children and their bemused mothers, started our adventure with a treasure hunt which had the kids charging around shouting madly in their quest to find the clues.



I remember my first visit to Hamleys in London in the 1970's and being completely overawed by the vastness of the store and the incredible amount of toys.  Today's children are a lot more sophisticated and toys have progressed a lot since the Sindy, Barbie and Action Girl dolls of my youth.  In those days a slinky was considered a high tech gadget!  Hamleys has lost none of its charm and now you can even have a birthday party in a private (and well air conditioned!) room at the back of the store.

The treasure hunt culminated in a stop at the Pick 'n' Mix Sweets where 'supplies' were duly obtained for the long journey through the store to the party room which was guarded by a fierce pirate.


Barnaby foraging for 'supplies'


The fierce pirate guarding the party room

The party room was set up with a table and numerous furry guests.  There were sweets, crisps, drinks, crafts and, of course, a DVD of Frozen (from which there appears to be no escape) playing in the background. (Note:  full party hire includes party food and a birthday cake). There were disco lights, a dance floor and soft bean bags to relax on.  I have to say, now being a veteran of most of the party offerings in Cardiff, it was one of the nicest party rooms I've been in. On one of the hottest afternoons of the year, the air conditioning was extremely welcome!


The Party Room


Ieuan gets to know Boris the parrot

Barnaby and Matilda then led the children in some good, old fashioned party games such as Duck & Goose which were all played with gusto before dance moves were demonstrated 'Gangnam Style'.



Party Fun & Games

After the disco, Barnaby read the story of The Gruffalo to the explorers who were joined by special guest Hamley Bear.


Hamley dances to Pharrell's 'Happy' with the kids - and they were.


Finally, the children were given their own Hamley Bear to take home.


We had a great time at the Hamleys Safari Party and, although the price per child is arguably a little higher than other places, the quality of venue and the fact that the children were kept fully entertained throughout more than makes up for this in my view.  In many places the party package is just venue hire and food with no activities and intense parental supervision required!

Hamleys offer themed party available every day, such as Pirate & Princess, Superstar Rockstar, Safari, Super Heroes and Teddy Bears Picnic at £35 per child (includes a gift bag worth £20) and Tea Parties, available Monday to Friday, at £25 per child (including a gift bag worth £10).  Parties are suitable for ages 4-14. The room capacity is 16 and party duration 1.5 - 2 hours depending on the party booked.   Extras for all parties can be provided, such as a magician, photographer, videographer or face painter. For full information please visit www.hamleys.com or, in the Cardiff area, www.hamleys.com/cardiff, email cardiffparty@hamleys.com or call 0207 478 3606.

Disclosure:  we received our tickets as a Facebook Competition prize.  This is an independent post for which no other payment has been received.

Friday, 25 July 2014

If You Can't Stand The Heat ....


Staying cool in the pool

I'm not a fan of summer.  There.  I've said it.  I hate sweltering heat and the confusion over what to wear.  I have a fear of sudden climatic change inherited from my parents so I am unable to travel more than five miles without a cardigan and thus insist my poor offspring are always overdressed 'just in case'.  We Brits really don't do heat well. A trip on the local bone-shaker train to Cardiff is spent with acres of untamed and strangely coloured, podgy flesh.  You could create your own pantone chart of fake tan before you've travelled two stops.  It ranges from light Cadbury's Caramac to full on Cuprinol.  Children are grumpy and their parents even more so.  Air conditioning is non-existent.

Shops are full of slightly wilted salad vegetables and forced fruit shipped from Europe, despite the fact that our own local farmers would love to sell their produce to those on their doorstep. Magazines are emblazoned with 'flat tum' diets and exercise plans endorsed by celebrities who have nothing better to do with their time than take endless photographs of themselves.  I suspect Kim Kardashian would wither and die like Ursula Andress in the film 'She' if someone took her camera off her.  Were this to happen, however, I fear the editorial team at The Daily Mail would be in a complete quandry and would have to go back to reporting news.

August in the world of journalism is known as 'silly season', although with the raft of terrible aviation tragedies and reports from the war torn quarters of the planet there is clearly no excuse at this time of year to focus on solely writing endless verbiage on the latest celeb tattoo or whether Cheryl Versini Biscuit Barrel (or whatever the new, double barrelled and doubtless temporary surname is) had her marriage 'accidentally' revealed to the press. Or then there's the latest sad chapter in Katie Price's life as she accuses various friends of having no morals, or Lily Allen's continued quest for mediocrity by wearing different outfits and singing a bit. 

I'm looking forward to Autumn. Crisp evenings, falling leaves and general, twinkly cosiness.  I don't want my sausages barbecued.  I want them cooked with caramalised onions and chunky apple. In an oven. I love Halloween, Bonfire Night and Christmas - times when emotions are heightened and joyous family memories are created.  All that darkness and gloom, punctuated by fairy lights and mulled wine.  Lovely.

It's no coincidence, I think, that there are no great summer celebrations, bar possibly Summer Solstice. Perhaps our ancestors spent summer languishing in their caves, fanning themselves with branches and drawing pictures of themselves on the cave walls.  If so, nothing's changed that much, has it?

Saturday, 19 July 2014

French Blogger Fined £2000 For Negative Restaurant Review


Source: www.point2.com

Ah blog reviews.  The life blood of content for many a blogger, happily typing their reviews in return for a freebie and possible promotion on a brand's website.  Sometimes hard to spot (no, I don't think putting a tiny asterisk alongside the name of a product really counts as disclosure) and often disappointingly incomplete in their assessment, nevertheless, personally I love to read them.

I'm not sure, though, that I would adapt my buying behaviour as a result of reading a blog review.  I find it hard to get excited about the endless swatching on beauty blogs (stripes of product on a blogger's wrist for the uninitiated) and the discussion about tone, texture and packaging when running the gauntlet of Superdrug or Boots on a Saturday afternoon makes it depressingly clear there is little that can be truly classed as new and innovative in the field of cosmetics. It's been a long time since many of us had the time for "NOTD" (nails of the day, I kid you not) or to plan a week's worth of outfits fully accessorized with shoes and bags.  (Where did those days go?!).

However, when it comes to restaurant and hotel reviews, I do take notice. And this certainly created problems for French blogger Caroline Doudet who wrote a negative review last August of a restaurant in Aquitaine in South West France.  She titled her post with the name of the restaurant and "The Place To Avoid in Cap-Ferret'.  Because her blog attracted over 3000 followers the judge ruled that this exacerbated the damage and ordered that the blog post title should be changed so as to be less prominent in Google's search results.  Miss Doudet was ordered to pay £1200 in damages plus £800 costs.

According to today's Daily Mail (19/7/2014), the blogger said that "this creates a crime of being too highly ranked on a search engine, or of having too great an influence".  The restaurant owner said:  "Maybe there were errors in the service, but this article showed in the Google search results and did my business more and more harm".

This is believed to be the first time that an unpaid blogger has had to pay damages for a negative review but, I am sure, it will not be the last.  Without seeing the post in question, it is hard to know exactly how fair (or otherwise) Miss Doudet's review was but surely any blogger worth their salt (or search engine results!) knows that reviews should be balanced and fair.  I think some bloggers feel they are offering a public service by offering a scathing assessment of their meal or visit - and in some cases, this may be entirely true - however in future we may all need to do a risk assessment on the posts we publish so as to avoid putting anything potentially libellous into the public domain.

Many years in the field of Law (albeit as a marketeer) lead me to believe that it is only a matter of time before negative reviews attract judicial - and financial consequences which will surely outweigh the short lived joy of seeing follower numbers increase on blog platforms such as Bloglovin'.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

It's Not Jolly Hockey Sticks When You Can't Get The Bully Off


source:  www.principlespage.com

The cold wind of change is blowing right through the homes of many parents tonight as they consider the next academic year.  We are all contemplating the impact of rejigging classes on our offspring  - the breaking of allegiances, the smashing of carefully forged bonds all in the name of "character building".  Will classes be kept together?  Will they be split? Which teacher will become the hero or heroine of our kids' life next year?

It should be a time of some excitement but unfortunately I suspect in some instances, classes will be rejigged not with the academic development of the pupils in mind but rather to avoid dealing with troublemakers and bullies.  The idea, I am assuming, is that by mixing pupils up, you defuse the bullying behaviour by breaking up cliques and gangs.  In my experience, this is totally ineffective as the bully will simply regroup and find new victims.

No, it seems that, for all the verbiage given to avoiding bullying and zero tolerance policies, it seems that in some quarters, the answer is to play academic chess with kids' education rather than address head on bratty behaviour with the parents concerned.  Don't bother playing "name that bully" because you can't.  You've more chance of getting a referendum on the EU out of Cameron and his new bevy of 'cuties' (I vaguely remember something called feminism where we were supposed to be promoted on merit rather than for a gigantic PR stunt but I must have misunderstood that).

Even at the age of 6 and 7, the mean girls are starting to emerge and whilst the adult thing to do is to have sympathy because I believe most behaviour is learned (and by that I mean learned at home at this age), it is really unsettling knowing that your child will be exposed to this and will have to learn to stand on their own two feet.  It's no wonder Tae Kwondo is so popular.  We have a black belt or two in the family and it is certainly something I will be encouraging Caitlin and Ieuan to take up.

The husband says that when he was in school, all aggression was taken out on the rugby pitch between the lads, but girls are something else entirely when it comes to bullying behaviour.  We start fighting against each other at an early age when we should be learning to work together. Sisterhood?  Pah! And sadly, I think many boys are missing a strong male authority figure in their life to give them a lead in what makes a man really strong. Clue:  it ain't hotwiring a car, scaring old ladies and frightening anyone shorter than you. How do we deal with this?

All we can do, I guess, is encourage our children to talk to us openly and without fear of judgement.  We need to teach them the communication skills to defuse potentially volatile situations and to develop their self esteem so that they know what is and is not acceptable.  More than this, we need to find a way to work with schools so that anti-bullying policies become living, breathing entities and not something written on a piece of A4 and locked in a filing cabinet.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Kids Party Paranoia Might Destroy Ya



In the general ghastliness that can be relationships between parents at the school gates, there are key moments which lead you to question what exactly goes on at school when you can't see and what is reported back when the kids go home.  I'm referring to incidents where your child comes home telling you that they are the only one who has not received an invitation to a party.

Now, my initial, and I think pretty measured reaction to this is that when you hold a party for your kids, it's impossible (and darned expensive) to invite everybody and, now that they are getting older, it's less about inviting the whole class but selecting close and special friends.

So far, so reasonable.  But then the doubts start.  The worry about whether your child is 'popular' or perhaps has some horrible habits you don't know about that are destined to ostracize them from polite company for all time.  I can't think what such a habit might be - the worst I can think of might be uttering profanities (oh my bum-bum being the current worst one here) or eating with your mouth open.

And then, with an unhealthy degree of displacement, what parent has not gone on to think - oh hang on, is this actually about me.  (Cue much muttering from the husband about "it's not all about you").  There are definite cliques at our school gate but in general, the mums, dads and child-minders are a friendly bunch. We are not cursed with the terrible stereotypes identified by acerbic Katie Hopkins - e.g. chip eating, monosyllabic Citroen Picasso drivers, power working mums who regard us lowly stay at home mothers as a major drain on the economy and entire clans dressed in Adidas Three Stripe.

It's tricky isn't it, because the urge to protect your offspring wells up like a tidal wave when you think they are being excluded, disrespected or, the worst of all, not fitting in.  The Husband, as ever, is pragmatic.  In the absence of any tangible proof, he prefers to take the view that 'it's all good' and there's nothing to worry about.  He's usually right.

Caitlin is about to go into Year 2 and Ieuan into Year 1.  I remember how awkward I found school and am just hoping they have a more positive and enjoyable experience than I did.  Even to this day, I'd rather dig out my own liver with a spoon than attend a school reunion.

So in this instance, quite possibly the Husband is wrong...... and it IS all about me.

Sunday, 29 June 2014

Would you make your 7 year old daughter wear deodorant?


Source: www.ehow.com

Todays's lunacy from the Mail on Sunday is a story about a woman who makes her 7 year old daughter wear deodorant to school because she is very active and gets a bit sweaty.   (http://www.mailonsunday.co.uk/health/article-2673233/I-make-seven-year-old-wear-deodorant-I-hate-daughter-smelly-child-school.html).

Despite the reason for this vigilence to her daughter's personal hygiene being to prevent the poor child being bullied, her mother has chosen to share her daughter's perspiration problems with the Media, thus ensuring that all anonymity is forfeit and, in my view, vastly increasing the likelihood that the girl will be subject to negative comments.

I always assumed that perspiration problems didn't really begin until puberty but no, the loyal commentators on Daily Mail.co.uk are adamant that children can get a bit whiffy prior to anything hormonal happening. Presumably they live in areas where soap is as rare as hen's teeth and giving a child a nightly bath is an infringement of their human rights.

Caitlin will be 7 in November and aside from encouraging her to wash, the thought of introducing products like deodorant haven't even crossed my mind.  Using deodorant whilst innocuous enough in itself (assuming you use a paraben free one) is the potential tip of an iceberg of personal grooming which, apart from being expensive raises a number of feminist questions.  Why should we wax?  Why should we have to look like a plucked chicken with skin smoother than a basted Christmas bird?  It's a matter of personal choice of course and I think what rankles most about this story is the fact that the little girl is having her personal choice taken away and is being pushed down a route which is likely to encompass more grooming that a Made in Chelsea v TOWIE showdown.

For heaven's sake let kids be kids.  They'll hit puberty soon enough and, in all likelihood earlier than in my generation.  Plenty of time to start giving them complexes about sweating and looking like Chewbacca (although that may just be me) when Mother Nature actually arrives.  Yet another case, I'm thinking, of a mother projecting her issues onto her child.  But I do have sympathy with the mother in question because at the nub of this story is the very real fear we all carry each day of our child being bullied and how best to prevent it.

If there's one thing I have learned, smothering yourself in organic deodorant isn't going to prevent it.


Monday, 23 June 2014

Big Brother IS a Popularity Contest Toya!


Big Brother's "raging" Toya Washington.  Source:  Channel 5.Com

Big Brother is a guilty pleasure of mine, along with Candy Crush Saga, Sprite (the Chinese have declared it to be the definitive hang-over cure - the drink that is, not the mythical pixie like creatures), Kendal Mint Cake (although the teeth can't take it any more) and peanut butter.  That's the good thing about being an old bird.  You can be as irrational with your foibles as you like and not even worry about defending them.  Were such a thing required, in my defence I will say that keeping up with the kids is very important when your kids are nearly 7 and nearly 5.  Sort of.

In deference to the husband's loathing of all reality based TV I am dutifully sitting through the World Cup and actually quite enjoying it.  It may be because I don't understand the game but it seems really slooooooow compared to rugby.  All that hair gel and hamming.  Those coloured trainers - my eyes!  Anyway, I digress as usual.

Last night I sat somewhat stunned as Toya, 50% of this week's "Big Brother Power Couple" and missing some 75% of her mental faculties turned into a screaming banshee of the highest premenstrual order when called a very rude word by Ash - a man who would probably check his appearance in a mirror for five minutes before leaving a burning building.  Actually the 'boy band' gang of Ash, Marlon and Winston (bull dog by name and brain size) are rather unpleasant.  The first two have bemoaned the fact that there are no 'sluts' in this year's house and express viewpoints about women better suited to the 1970s.  But boy did Toya go on. And on. And on.

It is undoubtedly unfair but in my experience a woman who 'loses it' will always be judged more harshly than a man - irrespective of whether or not she has right on her side.  And the speed with which a personal (and professional) reputation can be shattered is scary.  I can't understand why Toya did not think "hang on, these people may be muppets but they all have the power to evict me at some point".  Or,  "I could possibly have a short lived media career out of this if I play my cards right" but no, she screamed, she pouted, she stropped. And then, most bizarrely, whilst crying in the Diary Room, she opined that Big Brother wasn't a 'popularity contest'.   Now I struggle to see how anyone couldn't understand that this is EXACTLY what the show is - although it shares a lot with gladiatorial fights in Roman amphitheatres and the British tradition of pantomime where we all love a villain or villainess.(I suspect Harriet Harman would frown on feminising the word villain but I'll live with it).

In fact, success in many areas in life revolves around maintaining a high level of popularity.  I remember reading a study about the causes of failure of bright, high achieving workers in the corporate arena and the number one reason was having an abrasive personality.  To paraphrase the late Helen Gurley Brown (who created Cosmopolitan magazine), you can't be a selfish, snippy little turtle-bitch and succeed.  Losing it in any arena is a luxury - today more than ever.

I fear Toya has signed her own exit visa after last night's melt-down but she does not seem to have much self awareness.  Seriously where do the BB contestants get their almighty egos.  Tamara has been sounding off about 'showergate' claiming ownership after one kiss which sounded like a sink plunger being prized off a bunged sink.  She clearly has her eye on becoming the next Luisa - she of Apprentice fame who has moved from the bakery arena to constantly displaying her wares in a bikini.  

I think I remember reading once about something called feminism.  Still, even Gloria Steinem was once a playboy bunny.  And it's probably not worth losing my temper over......