London festivals

I’ve been to three lesser known South London festivals recently. They each had their positives and negatives, so I thought I’d do a little round up post. In the interest of transparency, I’d like to disclose that I was given press tickets to attend the first two events. I have not been asked to or paid to write this piece. Click here for my full disclosure policy.

Go Organic (8-9 Sept, Battersea Park)

The lowdown: Tickets were priced around £25, and it would have been worth the money simply to see the impressive headline acts. The Magic Numbers played on Sat, The Hoosiers on Sun, and there were plenty of other bands in between. The live music created a fab festival atmosphere. There were also live cooking demonstrations throughout the weekend. Again they had some impressive names, among which Melissa Hemsley, Theo Randall and Grace from Eats Amazing.

Alongside the music and demos were over 100 exhibitors. Organic food and drinks producers of all shapes and sizes. From big brands stocked in all the supermarkets, to small independents only found in select health food shops. For someone who takes their organic food as seriously as I do, it was quite literally heaven.

There were plenty of children’s activities going on, including an eco arts cafe, headband making, a mini farm and cookery classes. Being without the kids, hubby and I skipped it all, but the little people looked like they were having lots of fun.

Favourite bits: I absolutely loved chatting with some of the small business owners. It was wonderful to meet Philippa who created Fatty’s Organic Gin from her house in Dulwich. Not only is it a gorgeous flavour (watch out Hendrick’s!) but the branding is printed onto the bottle with vegetable inks, and unlike most other gins on the market, the bottle isn’t wrapped in plastic. This clever lady has thought of everything, and I wish her nothing but success.

London festivalsWe spent lots of time at the Vintage Roots stand, learning all about how organic and biodynamic wine is made. I found it fascinating hearing about the sulphite levels, and how sometimes biodynamic wines contain next to no sulphites, due to the completely natural fermentation process. This is how wine used to be made, in the days before nasty pesticides and overloading the drinks with sugar and sulphites to make it taste nicer and last longer.

We paid £5 to do a thirty minute wine tasting session with Queens Park Wines. The lady running it really knew her stuff, and it was far more insightful than I was expecting. Rather than discussing which food to pair the drinks with, we learnt all about growing regions, and cooperatives. There is so much innovation happening with organic wine right now, which is music to my ears.

Least favourite bit: There were only a handful of stalls to buy food, rather than nibble on samples, so the queues were huge all afternoon. We opted for Helen Browning’s delicious sausages, which were definitely worth the wait!

My verdict: It’s not often my husband and I get a whole six hours to ourselves without the kiddos, and we both agreed it was an excellent use of our time off. We had a blast wandering around, sampling all the delights and chatting to the vendors.

Is it running in 2019? Tickets will be going on sale in January, but you can sign up here to be the first in the know when there is any news.

Wild Child (17-19 Aug, Trevor Bailey Sports Ground, Dulwich)

London festivals

The lowdown: Wild Child promised to be an enchanting new type of family festival celebrating child-focused workshops and entertainment. It was designed by parents and arts educators, with the main emphasis on arts, creative play, STEAM and wellbeing. Ticket prices were £5-30.

Doors opened at 10am, and we arrived shortly afterwards. Cards on the table, when we walked into Wild Child everyone was a little bit underwhelmed. It was very small, and there didn’t appear to be all that much going on. Once we’d settled in however, we saw that the organisers were going for quality over quantity, and had done a marvellous job. There were theatre and dance companies, a wellness warren for yoga, and wellbeing, messy play and sensory activities for the toddlers, a circus tent and science corner. As well as an indoor market, full of London-based independent businesses.

Favourite bits: We set up our little camp outside the Fantastiko Circus School, which provided brilliant entertainment, especially for the younger kids (aged 4, 5 and 6). At the start of the day, Clara was wobbling on the tightrope, balancing on two hoola hoops and by the end she was walking on it unaided. It was quite incredible watching her progression throughout the day.

London festivalsIt felt very safe from the moment we stepped inside, so my friend and I gave the 9yo’s freedom to roam around and check out the activities aimed at the bigger kids. They did yoga, Bollywood dancing, cheerleading, mindfulness and painted affirmation pebbles, among other things.

Dino-obsessed Freddy was in his element with the Dino-Land immersive adventure. It was a proper mini show, and the actors were just fab. We went no less than three times throughout the day.

Least favourite bit: There wasn’t much choice food wise. It was very pricey, and not amazing quality. If we were to go back I’d take a full picnic and plenty of snacks with me. Also my friend’s son had just turned twelve, so was out of the 0-11 age range and there wasn’t anything for him to do at all. He was fine hanging out with us oldies, but other kids his age might not have been so willing to sit chatting to their mum and her mate all day.

My verdict: It was great fun, and we all had an awesome day with our lovely friends. They live a fair distance from us, so we only get to meet up a couple of times a year. When we do we always add quirky memories to our bank, and this was no exception.

Is it running in 2019? I can’t find any information about next year’s event. Which is a shame, because it really was a lovely day.

Lambeth Country Show (22-23 July, Brockwell Park, Herne Hill)

The lowdown: The Lambeth County Show boasts a unique line-up, celebrating the very best of both city and countryside. Over 100,000 people attended this year, making it one of the biggest free family festivals in the UK. The event is organised by EventLambeth and part funded by Lambeth Council, along with commercial sponsorship and funding.

It might be easier to ask the question, what isn’t there to see at the Lambeth Country Show? Expect everything from a traditional fairground, and fitness area to horticultural shows, animal displays, home grown veggie and flower competitions, craft and food stalls as well as their very own farm. Not to mention the music – which is just as eclectic a mix! With dub, Afro-beat, disco, jazz, folk, ska, soul, and local talent playing acoustic folk, choir, soul and pop, steel orchestras and samba bands. All this served with lashings of pop up food stalls, fully licensed bars and the very popular Chucklehead cider.

London festivalsFavourite bit: We hung out for well over an hour in the free activity section, which was sponsored by the charitable leisure centre chain Better. They had a soft play/gymnastics area, rowing machines, football, volleyball and a giant wall made out of velcro to chuck yourself at. So much fun.

Considering they have such huge numbers to contend with (among other things), I was very impressed by their sustainability policy.

Least favourite bit: The fairground section was extortionate. Most rides were £4 or £5, so times by three for us, it was very expensive to keep everyone entertained. Our faux pas was going there first, but if I had my time over, I would have gone straight to Better, and perhaps let the kids have one or two rides at the end.

The food has definitely improved over the years, and there is tons to choose from now, including lots of veggie/vegan options. BUT, it’s really costly. I do wonder whether they’ve managed to keep this lovely London festival free by charging the stall holders a lot more than they used to, which is of course reflected back in the prices they have to charge us?

My verdict: We’ve been going for over a decade, and it’s been quite interesting watching it grow over the years. I had a stall in 2007 selling smoothies and iced coffees, which was a lot of fun but so much work I vowed never again. Since then we’ve gone as a family six or seven times.

It’s a mixed bag to be honest, we’ve had some brilliant days here and some howlers. Like so many other things in life, our experience totally depends on the kiddos’ collective mood. If you’re in the area and happen to be free on Show day, you’d be mad not to pop down at least for a few hours. Be prepared to spend quite a lot of money though!

Is it running in 2019? YEP! Next year’s event has already been confirmed. The 45th Lambeth Country Show will return to Brockwell Park on Saturday 20 and Sunday 21 July 2019.

Did you attend any good London festivals over the summer? Where are you planning on going next year? Tweet me @MummyTries

Today is my 39th birthday. I am almost forty, and that’s okay

I didn’t think I’d feel this way, but something has shifted in me this past year. I’ve finally accepted the fact that I’m getting older, and am genuinely okay with the idea. Might sound ridiculous, but this mindset hasn’t come easily.

I started adulthood at fifteen, and was always head and shoulders younger than everyone else. In all my jobs and house shares I had at least half a decade on my peers. Now I often find myself in situations where the extra five years is in the other direction.

Saying goodbye to my thirties

I had a bit of a freak out over turning thirty, but I needn’t have done. 3-0 was good to me. I’d recently got married and become a mum. I felt ready and happy to embrace the next chapter of my life. My thirties gave me three gorgeous kiddos and immense strength to get through the challenging times.

This decade has seen mine and Hubby’s relationship tested to the point of most people being incredulous we’re still together. It’s seen me make and lose friends, but my rock solid crew have never faltered. It’s been about truly looking inwards to squash the demons that have previously had too much control.

Bring it on!

Now that I am almost forty, I’m embracing it. Age is simply a number after all. If we feel healthy and happy in our achievements then who cares? I’m finally comfortable with who I am and the way I look.

I’m not going to waste another second agonising over my thighs which seem to get bigger every single day. I’m not going to cry over the weird mole/skin tag thing on my right eye ever again. My teeth suck, but hell I’ll cross that very expensive bridge when I have to. My nose isn’t, and was never, that big.

I just smile now when people make silly jokes about getting old. Or look at me in mock horror when a stranger asks my age. I absolutely refuse to cling to the next 365 days with dear life.

I am almost forty.

I am fully onboard with the flaws which make me me, and you know what?

Being me isn’t such a bad thing.

If, like me, you are incapable of not breaking your phone, then you need to read on my friends. I have broken no less than three phones in the last year. THREE! My inability to have a piece of tech for longer than a week without an issue is becoming the unfunniest running joke in my house. Of course my husband thinks it’s hilarious. After I dropped the second phone in four months down the loo recently, I started thinking about little rules I could create for myself to stop this from ever happening again.

breaking your phoneI am far from being alone when it comes to phone breaking 

I had genuinely started thinking I was cursed and or on a par with most reality TV “stars” in the stooopid department. Turns out many of the parents I know have broken their phones in weird and wonderful ways. So, I thought I’d bring you a little list of all the things you should not do if you want your phone to last the duration of it’s contract. I’ve had a bit of help from my blogging friends, and have linked back to their blogs with their comments. Do check them out if you’re in need of reading material, they’re a marvellous bunch.

Here are my top three rules, which I’ll be living by, come hook or by crook!

  1. Never take it to the toilet.
  2. Never keep it in your back pocket.
  3. Never let your kids look at it, let alone touch the thing!

Stop breaking your phone with these top tips (in no particular order)

breaking your phoneAmy from Amy Treasure Blog sagely warns “do not keep it in your bra.”

Donna from What the Redhead Saidadvises “not to put it in the front pocket of your dungarees if you might need the toilet. I have dropped mine so many times like that as I always forget it’s there.” (feeling your pain, Donna!)

Both Emma of Free From Farmhouse and Midge of The Peachick’s Bakery both say “don’t put it on the roof of the car while getting the kids in and then drive off.”

Victoria of VeViVo’s says “don’t put it on the edge of the bath, unless you are willing for it to go for a swim.”

Kate, the Gluten Free Alchemist says “never get it out whilst carrying two bags and walking down stairs, unless you want a smashed screen and destroyed touch passcode connector! Also, in the eventuality of submerging in water, ALWAYS put it in a tub of rice and ALWAYS remember not to cook the rice afterwards!” (Yikkkkes!)

Mel from Le Coin de Mel says “don’t put it in the front pocket of your hoodie.”

Chrissie from The Muddled Manuscript says “never try to protect it by putting it in your hoody pocket then leaning over to bathe your children…”

Emma from Writing Life As It Is simply advises to “never leave it behind!”

Mandi from Big Family Organised Chaos warns to “never stand up with headphones attached to your phone and then stare as the phone smashes to the floor!”

Lisa from That British Betty says “don’t use it as a music device when cooking – it *may* end up in the boiling pan of rice!”

Sara from Mum Turned Mom specifies “don’t jump up and down on the ‘shaky bridge’ in Cork!”

Hayley from Miss Many Pennies says “never put it loose in your bag and forget to zip it up.”

Becky from Mommy and Rory says “never leave it where you friends Labrador can reach it!”

breaking your phoneNatalie from Plutonium Sox says to “buy a case before the phone arrives. I had three days without a case between getting the phone and getting the case. Smashed the back of it on day two!”

Jodie at Maidenhead Mum says “never leave it on the bed as you’re changing the duvet cover as it might get mixed up with it and end up in the washing machine. On a 1600 spin cycle. And you might not realise for 40 mins! R.I.P iPhone!”

Leigh from Dad Geek has some great advice. “Modern batteries operate best if you DON’T let them run out completely. Keep your phone charged at 15% upwards and it helps to increase how long you’ll get the most battery life out of your phone.”

Rebecca from My Girls and Me says “buy glass screen protectors, because they’ll break before your actual screen does!”

Nita from Mummy Wishes warns “to not use a selfie stick! It either pops out eventually or gets knocked by someone/something.”

Emma-Louise from Even Angels Fall warns to “never put it in your mouth whilst using a public toilet, for safe keeping, only for it to then fall in… on second thoughts, just don’t put it in your mouth full stop.”

Kelly-Anne from Mimi Rose and Me says to “never throw your phone at a wall because you think you have a spider on you, it will most likely be a loose strand of your own hair!”

If you have anything to add, tweet me @mummytries 

Wishing you the best of luck with getting to the end of your contract, without breaking your phone!  

Kidtropolis I’d like to start this blog by saying I have not been incentivised to write it. We were given complimentary tickets in exchange for my previous Kidtropolis post, and I’ve written this purely to capture the day.

The Good

The event was held inside East London’s impressive ExCel Centre, which was easy for us to get to on public transport. The DLR stops next to the building, which meant no wandering the streets looking lost.

The best thing about Kidtropolis is that once you’ve paid for your tickets almost everything is free. There are around fifty activities and two live mini-stage shows included in the price. We were also lucky enough to win both ballots, which meant we got a Next Step meet and greet, as well as a dance lesson with their choreographer Amy.

Of course there are extras to spend money on – such as food, drinks and merchandise – but absolutely no obligation to buy it. We took food with us, which saved tons, because it’s expensive once you’re inside.

Kidtropolis is pegged as the best kids show in the UK, and I can totally see why. I think it’s safe to say there is something for all children within their advertised age range of 2-12. I can’t think of anywhere else on earth where it would have been possible to meet the Lorax, Darth Vader, Next Step, PAW Patrol and Flawless within the space of a few hours.

As you’d expect the big stars are security protected, but some can be found wandering around chatting to fans. There are lots of opportunities to collect autographs, which is fully anticipated with the back page of the (free) programme being left blank, and marked autographs.

Kidtropolis

The Bad

We had the afternoon session, which ran from 2-6:30pm, and our first live show started at 2:30. This meant dragging the kids away from the fun they were having on the 200ft obstacle course, which they’d all decided to gravitate towards first. It felt rushed, and the stage wasn’t particularly well sign posted, but we got there just before the show started. It was well worth persevering with, because Flawless were absolutely amazing to watch (see next section).

After the show the children wanted to get autographs and learn some dance moves with them. This meant we got completely distracted and forgot about the dance lesson we had won in the ballot, which started at 3:30. By the time we remembered around 3:45, it was too late to join in. Polly and my friend’s girl were gutted, and as you can imagine there was lots of mummy guilt for not getting them there on time.

That wasn’t the only unfortunate event that occurred. About thirty seconds after going inside the Next Step live show at 4:30, Clara said she needed to go to the toilet. As the show was only going to last around 20 minutes, I said to her that we’d run there and run back as fast as we could. It was very dark inside, and whilst running back I tripped over. I was convinced I was fine, until it was pointed out by security that I was covered in blood. Turns out I’d cut my elbow quite deeply, but thankfully didn’t need any stitches. While I was being patched up by the fabulous paramedics, my friend made sure the girls got to their meet and greet. I arrived just as our party was at the front of the queue, and managed to photobomb the pictures.

Kidtropolis

The Awesome

The Flawless live show was nothing short of incredible. The level of coordination and effort going into that type of dancing is simply stunning, and a visual smorgasbord to view.

They had a huge mixed age troupe up on stage, and all the children had a turn to dance. Their sheer determination shone, and they were all an utter joy to watch. I didn’t realise they ran a dance school in central London on a Sunday morning, am thinking it might be worth checking out at some point for my girls.

I’m sure the Next Step show was brilliant too, if only I’d seen more of it. Polly and my friend’s 9yo were chuffed to bits to meet their idols and be cooed over. Myles signed Polly’s t-shirt and she has plans to put it in a frame so she can worship it.

I’d say the best part of Kidtropolis was the children getting to make the decisions about where to go and what to do. Properly hanging out with the stars was a huge draw, and will provide them with many happy memories.

Tips for next time 

Kidtropolis I’ve asked myself if I’d go again next year, and would definitely like to if it’s on again. We got the ExCel Centre nice and early, and got the children to write lists of everything they wanted to do and see.

In hindsight, I think six kids aged 3-11 and only two adults was pushing it, because with the best will in the world, balls are going to get dropped. In our case it was the dance lesson.

There was so much to do that it would have been impossible to get through everyone’s list. I think next time I’d be tempted to have a maximum of two similar aged kids per adult. Unfortunately, when you have to cater for bigger age gaps in general, you’re always going to come across this sort of dilemma.

Older children are perfectly safe to roam around independently, and there are clearly marked meeting points in case anyone gets lost.

My friend’s 11yo was in the gaming section for big chunks, but they aren’t security tagged, so if you have a smaller child who likes to run off then you’d have to keep a very close eye on them.

Overall, it was a fab day out, and we made lots more memories to add to the bank with our dear friends.

Oh, and for anyone who was wondering, my arm is healing up nicely thanks.

BML17 Keynotes Speaker
The lovely people at Fantastic Services, who I am a brand ambassador for, are kindly sponsoring me for the Brit Mums Live blogging conference this weekend. I have been very excited about going for months, and am really looking forward to catching up with lots of bloggers who I only see once in a blue moon. Then something pretty amazing happened last week. I was asked to be one of five keynotes speakers – as I was nominated to read my Open Letter to the Mum of a High Functioning Autistic Child. I wrote this post almost two years ago when I was at my wits end, and it is still one of the most visited posts on my blog. To say I’m nervous would be a monumental understatement, but I’m also kind of looking forward to it. Wish me luck!        

Hubby’s time off/Staycation 
Every year since Polly came along, hubby has taken a week off work and we’ve had a staycation. It’s been during these weeks that we’ve made some of our most cherished memories. The girls had spent a few days at their grandparents, which was fab all round, and Freddy really benefited from having some one on one time. Then we had three days last week, and had a lovely time. Going to the Science Museum and Natural History Museum on a Monday was a real treat, as it was so much less busy than usual. Hubby took Clara off to a climbing wall on the Tuesday which she absolutely loved. Then we all went to Battersea Park and swimming on the Wednesday. Perfect use of the time off.      

Polly’s breakthrough 
rollercoasterAfter a really tricky morning on Thursday, on the back of all the excitement from the week, Polly was struggling. She couldn’t keep her emotions in check, refused to do her learning, and was very disruptive to the younger two. Then out of nowhere she went off upstairs and wrote us all letters apologising for upsetting us. Huge breakthrough, and comforting to know that we are making progress in this area.    

Clara riding a bike without stabilisers
About three months ago we took the stabilisers off Clara’s bike thinking that she was ready. After five minutes of wobbling however, she declared that she wasn’t interested and hated riding her bike. At five, Clara is and always has been the most wilful of my three kids. Once she decides something that’s it, there is no changing her mind. So you can imagine my surprise last week, when I casually suggested we try again for a bike ride and she was not only enthusiastic, but pretty much rode off first time. Amazing! There is no stopping her now, and she is a pure joy to watch. She had plenty of goes on Freddy’s balance bike over the summer which really helped.        

Freddy’s balance biking and sleep
Freddy is getting brilliant on his balance bike, and more often than not we’re leaving the stroller at home. This is quite a big deal for me, as Freddy is my third and final child. I’d be lying if I said his overall sleep has massively improved, because it’s still ridiculous most nights. BUT, I am managing to get him to go to sleep in his own bed a couple of times a week now. Even if he falls asleep in mine and hubby’s bed, he does spend at least a few hours in his bed every night. Slowly but surely my baby is becoming less so, and I live in hope that his sleep will get better very soon.  

Winning at Instagram
I have even more of a love/hate relationship with Instagram than I do with Facebook, and that’s saying something. However, I’m doing much better at it these days, both with balance and engagement. Woohoo!