Tag Archives: children

Sightseeing My City: Warner Brothers Studio Tour and Harry Potter

1 Sep

A while ago, The Boy decided to buy me a surprise gift and then got drunk and attempted to sing me a clue. Which was the Star Wars theme tune, over and over. I tried my hardest to guess. “Something to do with Star Wars?” I was told no and more Star Wars was sung until I could take it no longer and he fell asleep.

The fireplace in the Great Hall

The fireplace in the Great Hall

Fast forward a few days and a slightly more sober Boy told me he had tickets to Harry Potter World, a place I had wanted to visit since the opening, but had never got around to visiting. I don’t know about you, but I grew up with Harry Potterbooks in my life and loved them. Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone was released when I was eleven, and from that day forward I was catapulted headfirst into a dream world; a place where magic happened and imagination unfolded.


I remember my first holiday in Greece with my friends, sitting and reading the Half Blood Prince by the pool, the sun beating down and the excitement at having bought it and not started reading it till my trip began dissipating as I turned the pages.

The Dursley's House

The Dursley’s House


Over the course of ten years my sister and I waited with bated breath as first the rest of the books, and second, the films, were released and we could get our fix. I remember the sadness of going to see the last film in the cinema, (together, as was our tradition) as I knew it was the end of an era. That feeling of firsts when it came to Harry was over.


So I was pretty excited to go to the studios and see all the components that made up the film, especially as it was December which meant the additional magic of the snow and the Christmas tree which one featured in the Great Hall would be making a guest appearance.


It was magical. The experience takes you through set locations like the Great Hall, Privet Drive and Diagon Alley, and each of the artefacts have a story to go with them. One thing we didn’t do was pay extra for the headsets as the tickets were relatively expensive, and this is something I would strongly recommend paying that extra bit for. The headsets give you far more description on all the different things, and I really regret not grabbing one!


The highlight of the trip for me was Diagon Alley; walking past all the shops that boggled my mind when watching the first film with Hagrid and Harry. It’s exactly as you expect, but with that extra magic thrown in – cobbles, storefronts offering owls, frogs and magic wands, and old-fashioned street lamps all adding to the mystery of the wizarding world.

Diagon Alley

Diagon Alley – photobombed by such a real dummy that Facebook keeps asking me to tag it!

When we stepped out onto the external set and into Privet Drive, the extra touches were what did it for me. The fake snow started, and at 27. I was squealing with excitement like a little child. All the outfits, props and ‘wizardry’ that make Hogwarts what it is to each and every person is featured, and finishes with a massive maquette of Hogwarts, made entirely to scale.


I loved it.


Things I would bear in mind (especially if you aren’t from London):

Watford is a bit out of London, which makes sense given the scale of the studio! You can get the Hogwarts express (yep, real scheduled bus) but the cheapest way is to get the tube, or the overground.


Leave plenty of time. You don’t want to be rushing around Hogwarts, do you? The lines get pretty big for your time slot, and to rush would be to miss out on some of the fantastic facts and props.


Don’t worry about food. There is a Starbucks there, but if you are travelling from London I would head back there to eat. If you are travelling with children, the Rainforest Café is a favourite of my god-daughter, complete with jungle thunderstorms, elephants, and chairs with animal tails.


What’s your favourite part of the Harry Potter stories? Have you been to Warner Brothers Studios?

Summer Days

13 Jul

I love my Goddaughters – they are like a tonic for the worst of days and their innocent giggles remind you of how fun the world can be. When their tiny little hands slip into mine as I meet them at the train station (What noise does a train make? Choo choo!!) and they chatter away to me, one in a really adult way to tell me about ballet and her tummy, and the other in the sing song baby of a two year old talking about the cute little chicks (ratty old pigeons), my worries and stresses slip away.

Last weekend was a girls weekend, and we had the most fun on a sunny day in London as I think I could ever have had.

We met and sat for a picnic; cocktail sausages and cool drinks in the sun while the little one chased the pigeons away. They kindly taught me to roly poly and hand stand (although in one uncoordinated case, how to nearly roll into a brick wall) and we played in the park and ate ice cream until we got to the carousel. Their little faces on the brightly coloured horses was the sweetest thing, AND THEN WE FOUND A FOUNTAIN.

It’s hard to put into words how much they enjoyed running in and out of the water and drying off in the sun, so I’ll share some pics instead.

Have a lovely weekend!


Here To Lend A Hand

16 Dec

Two decades ago I was a Brownie. I don’t know how widespread this is, but in the UK the Brownies are pretty popular and little girls from 5 – 10 dress up in mustard yellow and cowpat brown and trudge off once a week to a chilly church hall somewhere to do good. It wasn’t really a choice but something that everyone did.  To not be one you were missing out on quite a social event every Friday night, so both me and Little Bean went off to slowly freeze in the hall.

“We’re Brownie Guides, we’re Brownie Guides we’re here to lend a hand. To love our God and serve our Queen and help our homes and land. We’ve Brownie friends, we’ve Brownie friends in North, South East and West. We’re joined together in our wish, to try to do our best!”

The reason I got thinking about the Brownies is I sat in traffic on my way to work this morning and I stopped outside a lovely old house. It cast my mind back to knocking on the door with my Mum a good twenty years ago, all excited to earn my reading badge. I had to visit this little old lady once a week and read to her, and after a certain amount of hours I got my badge, for my Mum to sew on my sash with all my other shiny ones. It made me a little sad as there was a shiny Audi on the drive, and she was frail twenty years ago so probably isn’t there anymore. She was such a nice old lady.

The Brownies seem to me to be one of these cons for young girls. The concept is quite competitive and therefore gets everyone interested; the more badges you get on your sash, the better than the next girl you become. The kids are divided into tribes (I was an elf with visions of being a pixie. No such luck) and therefore more competition is added, with prizes to winning teams in ‘fun’ games. Parents think it’s like church, when actually it’s more like dodgeball. Vicious. The con is that really you are just acting as unpaid help all over the place (I know, helping people out!) but the amount of cups of tea I had to make and ironing that I had to do for my Mum to earn one particular badge makes me think that actually I was doing a maid a disservice, as I was taking away valuable work! Not that we would ever have had a maid. My friend’s family had a cleaner once a week when I was a child, and her mum was always hilarious with it. The girls would have to clean their rooms and she would run the hoover round the morning before the maid came, so that she didn’t think they were messy. I think all the maid had to do was put some bleach down the loo, spray polish in the air so that it was fragrantly clean and then put her feet up on the coffee table and watch morning tv while dunking biscuits in her coffee. For ten pounds an hour.

Once a year, we went off to brownie camp. We were divided into different tribes and given different duties (cooking, cleaning, bed making etc). We went to a tiny village hall, in the little village where The Holiday was filmed, and for three nights we lived in a little community, trekking round the woods and building things in a wholesome and helpful fashion.

I don’t remember liking it very much.


On the fifth day of Christmas my true love gave to me:

Five Gold Rings! And Dazzle Rebel. His voice is so cool. Go forth, and listen!

My four calling birds favourite was: Go Guilty Pleasures.

My three french hens fav was: The Byronic Man

My two turtle doves were: Brooke and McKenzie

My partridge in a pear tree was: The Redneck Princess

The five gold rings post of mine is: Wanderlust and Itchy Feet ; a post on how my inbox tempts me with travel goodies!

Happy Friday!

‘Belle xxx

If I Was A Child………..

3 Dec

There are a lot of things that children have to put up with until they are of an age where they start to have a say, and I think if I was a child at the moment I would be pretty peeved.

Top 5 Child Irritants

5) Nativity Plays.

Yes, we all think it is so adorable when we dress kids as sheep and angels and get them to learn a load of songs, but it can’t be much fun for the children. I used to have the video of my nativity (until Little Bean recorded over it with American teen drama, the OC. Still not impressed) which showed me, aged four, sucking my thumb the whole way through and not being remotely interested in Mary, Jesus or any of the farm animals. One of the shepherds twirled his dressing gown string like a helicopter blade for the duration of the recording, and an angel a few down from me (possibly Gabriel) picked her nose for the entirety.

Lou showed me Lilly’s nativity from last year a few weeks ago, where the lady organising it is clearly heard shouting in a distressed manner “MARY!!! Stop eating the chocolate coins!!! They are for Jesus!!” Mary paid no attention, quite possibly because she was three, and her name wasnt actually Mary. And who gives a three-year old a chocolate coin and expects them to save it for their pretend baby, Son of God or not?

4) Joke outfits.

I have bought Poppy a joke outfit for Christmas. So has her nanny. I went for a Christmas Pudding, complete with hat with berries on, while Di went for Mrs Christmas. As much as I love her I thought this was really funny (although I did draw the line at the elf outfit: stripey tights, green baby grow, elf hat and ears) as I don’t want her to actually HATE me when she gets to eighteen.

3) Bedtime

I can’t think of anything worse than having to go to bed at an allotted time, just because my Mum told me to. At twenty-five I am Lord of My Own Manor (well, joint lord) and the thought of going back twenty years and having to have a bath at a certain time, put the set out pair of jammies on and go to bed when I was told would make me apoplectic with rage. The only saving grace would be that M*A*S*H would still be showing on Sky.

2) PE

At school I was the most imaginative little terror, thinking of reasons that I simply vcouldnt do PE or Sports Day. It usually featured around my ankle, but I might have a sore throat, chesty cough or sprained wrist if it meant I didnt have to do sport. I would also come down with the most terrible (and terribly fake) migraines, and I probably should have gone into a career on stage.

1) Jamie Oliver.

If I was a child, Jamie Oliver would be my top pet hate. Not because he has a face that always irritates you, or that his voice makes me automatically flip the channel (he doesn’t pronounce his ‘T’s for one; and if he says ‘butter’ or ‘Scottish’ I go into a rage), but for his purge of turkey twizzlers. I know he thinks he is trying to do the under tens a favour, but I loved them at school (along with chicken dinosaurs, potato smilies and waffles) and can’t think of anything worse than being a child and not having this to look forward to come lunch time. I mean come on! All that would be left would be pink custard!

What would be in your top 5?

Ooooooh… Fanceh!

8 Nov

So a week has gone since the advent of the competition and you still have 5 days to enter! I did promise I would share some of the ones that featured highly on my faves list, so in no particular order…. (plus see if you can spot the glaringly obvious Where’s Wally/Wendy in this post!).

1) Marc Spine Chilling Horror. This one dropped into my inbox and filled me with jealousy. I wish I had come up with this one, they look so cool!

2) Patricia at Aniksrunn sent me this one of one of her kids. I loved it! She’s totally rocking the dead kid. Reminds me of The Ring. Creepy!

3) Charlet at DaintyC sent me a similar one of her and one of her students, dressed as Pikachu and Luigi from Super Mario. Totally adorable.

4) One of the first up takers of the game, Kathleen sent me pictures of the entire family dressed as the Rubbles. I always preferred them to the Flintstones anyway!

5) Tori – this one I think it still sitting in my favourite spot. She sent me a pic of her darling little boy dressed as George Michael from the WHAM! Days…. This is the sort of mother I am going to be. I sincerely hope these pictures are brought out every time he brings a girlfriend home.

But do you think your fancy dress outfits are better than these guys? Were you the most fly witch on the block? (See what I did there, I’ll keep the dad jokes coming….) did your zombie look have people running for cover? Some of the more creative entries are some lads dressed as bacon, and a lady in a fridge costume, but I want to see what you’ve got!!

It’s not me judging (it’s a woman whose alter egos include Dangermouse, Wally from Where’s Wally fame and a really chavvy looking golfer) so you guys have all to play for, keep them coming! Mainly because I love the creativeness, and feel special when I get emails 🙂

For more information, read these related posts:
Fancy Dress Update!
Competition Alert! Who Dresses The Fanciest?

The Doctor Will See You Now

2 Nov

A few weeks ago LouLouBelle came round with the girls for a cup of tea and a catch up. Lilly was in a bit of a mood as she had the tail end of a bug, and so I gave her the stethoscope from my fancy dress outfit as a present. I have high hopes of her being something clever like a doctor, so I thought I would try to shape her from an early age and cheer her up.

“Laura” she called, and then added her surname to the end. I tried to explain that her surname wasn’t my surname, a bit like her nanny and her cousin all had different names. She enquired as to what mine was and when I told her she looked perplexed, paused for a time and said:

“Like the fairy?” Yep, like the fairy.

“The doctor will see you now” she announced. “What hurts?”

Well, I could have been there all day. But for simplicity with a three-year old I went for cold symptoms. I told her I had a cold and a cough.

She grabbed the stethoscope, put it to her ears and listened to my chest. She then listened to my lungs (so clever, exactly how the doctor does) and informed me:

“Your heart is broken. If you feel your heart in your mouth then you MUST PANIC AND GO TO THE DOCTORS”.

To start with, my heart isn’t actually broken thank you miss! I’ve had a bad few months, but it’s firmly in one piece and positioned where it should be! I’m sure that doctors are supposed to tell you not to panic, not the other way round, although if I feel my heart in my mouth I will definitely be panicking.

She then moved on to her Mum. “My leg hurts” said Lou. “Cut it off” said Lilly. “Is there anything wrong with your baby?” (Said baby, who has been sitting quietly on the floor while being repeatedly hit with the end of the stethoscope as Lilly swung it around, looked a little worried that she may be next for an appointment with the ‘doctor’).

Ever since Lou had Poppy, Lilly has been cleverly trying to think of ways to get to hold the baby. She is nothing if not cunning, wandering into the lounge with her doll (Bob. Everything is called Bob, I’m surprised she can differentiate them!) and asking her mummy, “would you like to hold my baby?”

“Well” said Lou “I can do, but you aren’t holding mine.”


But when Halloween came, my little princess adopted a different profession for the night. She became a pirate! “Well shiver me timbers!” I said to her “what is your pirate-y name? You have to be mean and scary. How about Captain Lilly the Terrible?”

“Don’t be SILLY!” she said “I’m a girl piwate!” (She has problems with her ‘R’s’) and that was that. I had been told!

Keep sending in your pictures to enter the fancy dress competition, I have had some corkers but I think my current favourite is the Rubble family from the Flintstones. Awesome!!

Life Lessons I Learnt From a Four Year Old

5 Oct

I spend a great deal of time with my favourite under eighteen in the world, little Miss Lilly. She is four years old and the oldest daughter of my very close friend LouLou, and she is my favourite little lady in the whole wide world. I love her because she is clever and chatty, and comes out with some of the best one liners I have ever heard.

We use her as a man tester. When I lived with ex-boyfriend, Lou bought babygirl round (being a great deal smaller at the time) and she took a shine to him, trying to sit on his lap and give him kisses. She had a bit of a runny nose, but he was appalled and it was later decreed that she should be used to vet all potential suitors early on, to establish their worth. After all, if you don’t like my Lil, you are not right for me.

And I have come to learn that the world is a different place through the eyes of a four year old, and maybe there are some lessons to be learnt here.

1) Say what you see. Don’t try to over complicate it.
When reading a bedtime story the other night, Lilly was pretty well behaved until we got to the letter N, where she got tired and began to act up. I swear she is fit for a career in the West End when she is older. “N is for……” said Lou “say what’s round her neck”.
Lilly looked at her, unimpressed. “bracelet” she said.
Well she wasn’t far wrong. It went on like this, some answers stranger than the others. “O is for…..” said Lou, pointing to the picture of the octopus. Fairly easy, there aren’t many O’s. Until we realised Lilly wasn’t playing.

2) There is always a need for matching socks.
My sister is really bad at matching socks. She just doesn’t care. Lilly came round when she was at our flat one Sunday, and Danielle and Lil chatted for about five minutes before my sister left. Over a month later, in the car on the way to my house she said “are we going to Laura? Is that girl with the different socks going to be there?” Oh the shame.

3) Friendship is very important.
Lilly is particularly fond of her dad’s friend, Lofty. She follows him around adoringly, asking “You are my best friend though, aren’t you Lofty? Aren’t you? AREN’T YOU LOFTY???” The poor man, in his thirties, is slightly perplexed why a four year old princess wants to be his best friend. But agrees nonetheless. He will be beholden to this for life.

4) Take a hold of love, wherever it comes from.
After a particularly bad day at work, I get to Lou’s house. She opens the door. All is fairly quiet until this little whirling dervish of curls and blondness comes hammering through the door and hits my shins. “OhhiLaurailoveyou” she says into my knees. And my day considerably improves. Regardless of her then demanding that I carry her everywhere until bedtime.

5) Picnics can be as imaginative as you require.
One cold day in the supposed British summer, we decided to have a picnic with the girls. Of course it monsooned outside, so we lay the blanket in the lounge and devoured our picnic from there. When discussing the eve before what we would have in our sandwiches, I ventured “how about cheese and pickle Lillypad?” she replied, authoritatively “Yes. And chocolate spread.” She didn’t seem to understand why I felt cheese, pickle AND chocolate spread might be a little odd.  “And crispies.”

Do the children in your life crack you up? Have they come out with any great one liners?

School Trip Scandal

14 Aug

When I was at school, we went on school trips. Bear in mind that I was at primary school a good fifteen years ago, so they weren’t the kind of trips that kids go on these days. My cousins in America enjoy the elephant sanctuaries in Thailand and surfing off the coast of Hawaii… me? I went as far as Le Touquet. They were always slightly budget, but Le Touquet had to be hands down the worst school trip I ever went on. Worse that the trip to Henley Fort ( a mere twenty minutes away from home) where it rained solidly for 48 hours while we slept in tents and the teachers resided in an actual building. This was the excursion on which I tripped over a tent peg and broke my toe, and my friend dragged me by the armpits pulling my top up and baring my boobs to my form. I was far too young to be wearing a bra, but the embarrassment stuck with me for life.

So back to Le Touquet. If you have read my post on teachers you will have a bit of a background on the aforementioned trip, but we headed off all excited about visiting France and having some fun. We were eleven. Our idea of fun was fairly low, so it wasn’t expected to disappoint. We go to the hostel which seemed to be the French equivalent of a halfway house for adults, finding our rooms to be on the fourth floor and full of sand. The teachers rallied the troops for an impromptu game of football on the beach to cheer us up, after all, we couldn’t play football on a beach at home! We walked the twenty minutes to the sand for the game to be stopped as soon as it started due to the sheer amount of dog pooh under the sand. Health and safety. Back we went to beds full of sand and people banging on the doors through the night. We huddled together for safety.

The next day we all went for breakfast and in the time it took us to munch on our croissants and down our tea, one of the rooms got broken into and one of the boys wallets was stolen. So we ALL had to get on the coach and make the trip to the local police station, where we sat for four hours. We waited there, on the bus in the scorching heat because the gendarme would not let us off, possibly again for health and safety. A squashed child on the road outside the police station would have done nothing for international relations.

The next day, our last, was due to be better. Off we went, on the bus again to the local swimming pool, where we were promised a day of rapids and flumes and bobbing about to our hearts content. We didn’t even mind too much that our horrible French teacher was wearing a speedo (pass me the brain bleach!) and we frolicked and swam until home time. We had to leave the pool relatively swiftly to have time in the duty free at Calais before we went home.

But one of the girls had had her locker emptied, and therefore had no clothes to change back into. Back to the police station we went, and sat there for a further two hours while the issue got reported and all the correct paperwork got filled in. Quick sit in traffic back to Calais and straight on the ferry, do not pass go, do not stop at duty free.

So if you need to know anything about the intricate workings of a French police station then I am probably the best person to ask, but otherwise I would gloss over me when researching the country. And if anyone wants to take my on a road trip to France, please may I request we avoid Le Touquet.

Tell Me Sweet Little Lies

27 Jul

Parents tell their children a lot of things to explain away awkward questions and give themselves a quiet life. Stork and the baby, anyone?

My parents were no different. In all fairness, it was more my father who was partial to making up a story or two, and my grandfather is the worst culprit of all. There are many porky pies that I have fallen for through my childhood, some innocent little fairy tales (like Mary the Fairy) and others slightly more devious, like the time that my grandfather convinced both my sister and I that a bowl of green olives in the centre of the dinner table were in fact green grapes. We soon realised the error of our ways, but not before consuming one of the horrible little things, and feeling suitably done.

In fact my granddad has never let the truth get in the way of a good story, but is a little flummoxed that we have now managed to work out when he is fibbing and call him out on it. The reason is this; he rubs his hands together when he is telling a tale, and looks very smug with himself. As children we failed to notice this, but as we got older we cottoned on to the lies and now he is rather less successful when trying to pull the wool over our eyes.

My dad has come out with some right treats too.

My sister, until she was about eighteen, was convinced that if you were to write on your hands, then you would get skin cancer. I think this is a little inappropriate to be telling young children, but I suppose it to be a means to an end, so we didn’t come home with biro all up our arms after a particularly interesting day at school. I was the worst; being a little bookworm who wanted to know everything about everything, I would jot down reminders on my lily white skin, ready to ask about it when I got in. But my sister believed this to be true for a long while longer than she should and often looked stupid when arguing the point with her peers.

Another winner that my dad provided us with was the use of hamsters to power a plane. Whenever we walked across the tarmac to go on holiday, he would do a little jog on the spot followed by a superman arm. It was drummed into us by that point, after years of trips that he was referring to the hamsters who powered the engines, getting ready for takeoff. This troubled me more than my sister, and my mum had to soothe me as I worried about the rodents in the massive engines. Yeahthanksdad!!

Did you ever get told anything ridiculous, or are you in fact the one who is currently conning your kids? Answers on a postcard please!