Monday, 16 February 2015

Hounslow Urban Farm

One of the advantages of having a farm near Heathrow Airport is that you get all of the pets unsuccessfully smuggled in and out of the country. So there are some unlikely characters on the Hounslow Urban Farm. Snakes alongside sheep and tarantulas as well as tortoises. 

This was our second outing to the farm, on a wet first day of the February half term, quite a contrast to our first visit in the summer. But just as much of a success. 

It was knight training day so there were some great themed activities including a quiz trail, sword training, bows & arrows and space hoppers - as horses, I think. 

When the rain really settled in for the afternoon the indoor bouncy castle entertained O for an hour and the mini staff kindly befriended him so effectively I was momentarily tempted to adopt some older children, if only for the free childcare. 

C came away as a beautiful butterfly and I haven't even mentioned the 'meet the animals' bit and the owl display which were both fantastic. An action packed first day of half term. And breathe. 

Tuesday, 10 February 2015

A Week of Outings

Last week brought three trips to the West End - two contrasting theatre productions, sandwiching a child-friendly press preview of Shaun the Sheep, the latest Aardman film, which O & C got to go to. I'm sure I didn't go to private screenings and press previews when I was 4! In fact, i was being moved from London to deepest darkest Dorset.

James McAvoy was the big draw and the reason I booked in to see The Ruling Class at Trafalgar Studios. I'd been looking forward to this one for ages and am happy to report it lived up to heightened expectations. He is magnetic and oh so memorable, playing a mad upper class heir who becomes more acceptable to his House of Lords peers once his ditches his 'God is love' mantra for 'God the avenger'. Surprisingly brilliant, given the (potentially dated) topic. Definitely the best thing I've seen at the theatre this year.

Maybe because it was Thursday night, or becuase it was my third night out on the trot, but I'm embarrassed to admit that I fell asleep in Shakespeare in Love, a theatrical spin off from the romcom film of the same name. I was fighting the heavy, heavy eyelids which kept lowering themselves despite my efforts to stop them in the first act. But things picked up after the interval and I did enjoy the humorous take on Shakespeare, his writer's block and his doomed love for a girl who dresses like a boy to be a player. For my money, the film does it better.

I'm not sure who enjoyed Shaun the Sheep more, the kids or me. As you'd expect from the makers of Wallace & Gromit and The Chicken Run, there's plenty of adult humour (not, ahem, 'adult' humour). Things like the iPhone not working when the haircut pics go viral, the Blue Peter badge on the satchel, or ... There are loads of clever references which are so quick and subtle that I'm not sure 4 year olds get them but they were laughing uproariously at the 'baddie' animal catcher getting dragged along behind the caravan until the bottom of his trousers wore down to reveal his red pants.

Now we've got the Shaun in the City trail to look forward to...

Thursday, 5 February 2015

48 hours in New York

3 and a half years after our honeymoon we made it back to New York! For 48 hours. A dizzying but wonderful trip.

We stayed at the Soho Grand, a dog friendly design-hip place right in the thick of the cool cafes and slick shops. From our hotel it was a short walk to Chinatown, and we found a great Italian (Bianca) for Friday night and lovely Mexican restaurant for Saturday supper - all we needed for our 2 night stay.

Day 1 was so freezing cold I thought my cheeks and chin were getting frostbitten. I estimated a stint of 20 minutes would be the longest time outdoors before bits of my face would fall off with the cold.

Still, we managed to walk past the World Trade Centre on our way to the Statten Island ferry and then on to Brooklyn Bridge, all without loosing any facial features.

We relived our honeymoon with brunch at Cafe Select (LOVE this place) and from there strolled east along Kenmare Street to the Tenement Museum - a highlight of our trip. One of the few (only?) museums in New York where you get a history of New York, the museum is really a house whose peeling wallpaper and original features, pretty much untouched since the last inhabitants left, are wonderfully evocative of the cramped conditions the people living there must have endured.

Just enough time for a quick trip to Chelsea Market for fresh pasta followed by a really fast sprint up the stairs to the High Line before getting a limo (the perks of His work!) back to JFK where - bonus! - I got to hang out with Him in the usually off-limits to regular ticket holders lounge.

We whizzed back, sleeping all the way, just in time to take the kids to school, me not entirely with it, still in need of another 3 hours' sleep, it turned out. 48 hours in New York... what a blast!