Saturday, 26 July 2014

Moominsummer Madness

Despite being a huge bookworm as I child, my first real memory of the Moomins is hiding away in the gallery at Daisy and Tom's (a children's department store in Chelsea where I had my Saturday job) one afternoon and enjoying a few chapters about these loveable Swedish/Finnish (they were written by Tove Jansson in Finland but in the Swedish language) 'things'. I call them 'things' because I'm still not really sure what they are. They look hippopotamuses but are clearly not, they're not really trolls either. They're just fun, lovely and surprisingly very human!

Thus there was no way I was turning down the offer from my best friends to spend the afternoon with them and their children at the Polka Theatre to see their summer production, Moominsummer Madness. If you're not familiar with the Polka Theatre, it is a wonderful delight hidden in Wimbledon. It's a theatre just for children - they put on a wealth of shows during the year for toddlers through to adults as well as lots of school and holiday workshops. It's a great thing to have on your doorstep and worth travelling a long way for - my lovely friends coming from Kent and Cambridgeshire.

The show was fantastic and held mine and the children's imagination from start to finish. The play tells the story of the summer when a huge flood swept through Moomin Valley, forcing the Moomins to find a new home in a floating theatre. Disaster strikes as Moomintrool, Little My and Snork Maiden disappear and so Moominpappa and Moominmamma have to find a way to reunite the family.

Told through a mixture of songs and dialogue by four excellent puppeteer actors, the play is beautifully crafted. The songs are magical and are very wistful. I've been humming a few in my head since I left the theatre yesterday. The sets are simple but hugely effective and the gorgeous puppets and handled skilfully. At points I forgot there were people manipulating them so think the effect must be even more dramatic for little ones.

This is definitely worth seeing if you're a young or old fan of the Moomins - steal a child (not literally please, I don't want to be a co-conspirator in court!) to take with you and watch them spellbound by the magic of this enchanting story.

And if you can leave without purchasing your own mini-Moomin then you're definitely made of stronger stuff than me! x

Performing at the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon until 16th August 
and then on tour throughout the UK.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Olympic Cycling

A few weeks ago I was considering buying a new bike. Not having cycled for years I wanted to make sure I really liked cycling before making such a big purchase. As I'd been looking at Brompton folding bikes it seemed like a good idea to hire a bike from a Brompton Dock and spend an afternoon testing out life on two wheels.

Brompton Dock is a fantastic idea. You register online and for a small membership and subsequent hire fee, you can borrow a folding bike from a locker and use it for the day. It's cheaper than hiring a Boris Bike and because Bromptons fold up you can take them on the Tube and also into buildings if you're going to a meeting, doing a bit shopping or stopping for a bite to eat. We picked up our bikes up from Turnham Green underground station but Docks are opening up everywhere all the time, not just in London but in Oxford, Manchester and lots of other cities across England.

Andy and I decided to head over towards the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. We visited it so many times during 2012 but hadn't been back since the site had been repurposed and reopened. I was dying to go back to the place that holds so many wonderful memories from the Olympics and Paralympics.

Having been very adventurous in carrying the bikes onto the Tube and even changing lines, we got off at Blackhorse Road and walked down to the towpath where we could cycle alongside the River Lea. It was a lovely, easy ride. You can't imagine how nervous I was getting on a bike for the first time in years, especially as I was cycling so close to the water, but I soon got back into it and became quite confident at zipping along. It's definitely true what they say - you never forget how to ride a bike!

I really enjoyed riding alongside the River Lea. We passed through both Walthamstow and Hackney Marshes and they were amazing. I'm not so familiar with this part of London but it's definitely somewhere I want to go back to - they were both such tranquil, calm places in the middle of the city. Such peace! They reminded me of Wormwood Scrubs, which is near me, but with water instead of a mainline train-track running alongside

River Lea Bridge Graffiti
I saw these captions on a couple of the bridges down by the QEOP and just had to take some photos. The wording seemed so appropriate. Who can forget the role of the fantastic Gamesmaker volunteers during London 2012 or fail to appreciate the changes the area has gone through in recent years? From industrial estate to wasteland, then its rejuvenation into a major sports event venue and now a community space, the River Lea has certainly changed beyond imagination!

Andy and I continued through to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park and I was absolutely stunned. It is gorgeous. The wildflower planting is now established and looks amazing. Everything looks so natural and like it's been there forever. There's little to suggest that it's only been cultivated there in the last couple of years. The park is really child-friendly and there are lots of play equipment for different ages to use. There are some lovely big ground fountains where children and adults ran through to cool down. Whilst it was busy, it did not feel like you had no personal space, there were lots of hidden corners and benches to relax in. Both Andy (an experienced bike-commuter) and I thought that it was a great place to cycle because the paths are relatively new and are still so smooth. I loved trying to get up lots of speed up and down on the ramps. I felt like a pro - move over Victoria Pendleton!

It was a wonderful sunny afternoon and we'll most definitely be doing this bike ride again. Next time on my very own Brompton bike - I was so taken by the experience that I went out and bought one the next weekend.

Brompton Dock
Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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52 Lists / Thirty

Joining in with Emma at Made In Hunters and her 52 Lists project.

This week: List the things you want to be remembered for

I was rather excited when Emma's email with the list for this week landed in my inbox. I'd been thinking about what I wanted to be remembered for earlier this week when Andy and I had one of those random conversations about what we want our funerals to be like on the way home from dinner out on Saturday night. 

I keep thinking about this a lot recently as I don't want to have a bog-standard chronological eulogy. I've read these at 3 of my grandparents' funerals and although they're a lovely celebration of the persons life, it can be so stressful for the person doing it that I'd rather not make any loved ones even more anxious at a difficult time.

So I've decided I just want sentences read out about me. It will be the good, the bad and the ugly - the sort of things that if you heard it you'd think "Yep, that was Jo". I don't want just to be remembered for good deeds, I want to be remembered for who I am because if you know me and love me as family or friends, you have to take the rough with the smooth, appreciate my kind ways and laugh at me when I'm dappy. 

I guess over time these will change before my funeral but these are some of things I want to be remembered for...

Jo always had her friends and family in her heart and in her head.

She loved all cats and would stop in the street to befriend them.

She always remembered birthdays and anniversaries and jumped at any excuse to send a card.

Jo would never allow people to pause for breath between sentences and would often jump in to speak before you could complete the final syllable of the last word.

She loved bunting and always cheered up her street with her displays of bunting, flags and fairy lights at Christmas.

She cared about every child in every class she taught. She always tried to get to know ever child inside out.

She made a pretty good Christmas pudding, scrummy fruit cake and her custard and white chocolate cookies were delicious.

Jo was really bad at always double-dipping chips.

She loved London and was so proud to be a life-long, multi-generational Londoner.

Jo loved Andy to bits even if they did so often drive each other bonkers.

She was a procrastinating perfectionist but usually got there in the end.

So that is me. I'm sure there are other things I'll think to add later but I'm hoping this event won't occur in the immediate future. That said I'm glad I've written it done because you never know what's around the corner and it could be a big red bus waiting for me to land underneath. (Joke!)

What would you like to be remembered for? x