Google has killed Santa!


Megan is only seven so I didn’t expect to be having ‘the talk’ for a few years yet. I hadn’t really thought about how I would approach the subject or answer her questions and I am yet to discuss with my husband how we present a united front when things get tricky.  So I was far from prepared when she innocently asked the other day “Mummy is Santa real?” My heart stopped, my mouth went dry and I reacted with a knee jerk “Of course he is! Who else could it be?”

My mind was racing as I tried to work out how and why she’d discovered the unmagical truth so early. It turns out she’d overheard some older kids at school (she has my journalistic ability to be tuned into one conversation whilst deeply engrossed in another) saying that the man in red was really your mum and dad.

Argghhhh! I am an old romantic when it comes to Christmas, I love all the pomp and ceremony and traditions (new and old) and I am just not ready to let the Santa myth go yet.

The problem is Megan is very mature and has inherited more than a little of my cynicism so convincing her that Santa is real is going to take some doing. She’s also terrible as keeping secrets so once the cat’s out of the bag, Henry (4) will have his Christmas miracles shattered too.

So I laid it on thick about the magic, the elves and the Santa cam and how it would be impossible for mummy and daddy to get all the presents bought and wrapped without her knowing. At first I thought she’d bought it.

But then came the words that are enough to strike fear into any Christmas elf’s heart “I’m going to Google it!”

WTF!!!! When did kids get so savvy that when they doubt their parents they head to the PC? I suppose I’m lucky that she sticks to the rules and always tells me when she’s going online and what she’s going to do so I was able to forbid her inquisitive perusal of the popular search engine at least for one night.

Once she was on bed I thought I’d check out Google for myself. I was more than confident that those clever tech people who seem to work in a children’s playground would have pre-empted this question and at this time of year and would have done something clever to ensure the question was answered positively with a festive pop up or graphic. But sadly it seems the Christmas spirit hasn’t reached Google towers and the results make a very depressing read for a 42 year old mum, never mind a seven year old who would still like to believe.

So I am spending the next two weeks in a bizarre juggling act. Encouraging Henry to dream the dream about Santa whilst distracting Megan from thinking too much about it all (and keeping her off Google) I know they have to grow up but I had hoped the magic would last a bit longer and I’m disappointed that technology might just be helping to put a nail in Santa’s coffin.

How have you ensured the Santa myth continues just a little bit longer? I’d love to hear your stories.




London – where the streets are paved with gold!

We have just returned from an exhausting but exhilarating first family trip to London. The kids have been asking for years to go and Henry, four, has been obsessed with Big Ben since he saw it on  the TV so they were very excited to be visiting the Big Smoke. We had the best time and so if you are planning a trip with little ones to the capital here are a few quick tips…

London can be a big place for little legs – jumping on a tour bus is a good way to see all the sights, or if you have a clear day The Eye gives you a bird’s eye view of the city. We only saw Buckingham Palace from the air but to be honest that was enough – next time we will do the whole Changing of the Guards thing but this time waving to HRH from the air was good enough for us.

Using the tube is a big adventure but it’s still tiring. Kids love trains so going on the underground is very exciting. Who needs the fairground when you have long escalators, loud trains and buskers? But be warned, there’s still a lot of walking to do when you get under ground and if the escalators are broken, the novelty can soon wear off.

Not everything costs a fortune. If you have a dry day head to the South Bank and just walk. There are loads of street entertainers (and we found them a lot friendly than the ones in Covent Garden), there’s play areas, market stalls, musicians and even the park benches are a work of art. You also get to see a lot of the famous sights wandering along and the kids will be so distracted they won’t have a clue how far they’ve walked.

It’s worth buying Corn Flakes – or whatever else you can find that has a buy-one-get-one free offer for the main attractions. You often see vouchers for the Shrek Experience, Madam Tussauds, Aquarium and the London Eye. If in doubt just cut them out and keep them. The attractions are fab but they cost a lot of money so any help you can get is well worth it. Blue Peter badge winners can also get in free (with a full price paying adult) to lots too.

Fill your bag with snacks and puzzles. If you are planning on doing the main attractions you will end up queuing. Even if you want priority tickets you have to queue to get them before joining a (smaller) queue to get in. Anything you can take with you to keep the little ones happy whilst you wait is a must. Mine were, on the whole, really good but when the inevitable moaning started I told them it was good practice for visiting Disneyland in a few years!

Learn to say ‘no’ to photographers. Most of the family attractions have photographers dotted around making sure they capture the moment as you pose in front of a blue screen backdrop. On your way out, they then attempt to sell you all the shots in various formats for a lot of money. If you like these posed cheesy shots then great – the photographers are very good at what they do but it doesn’t take long for the money to start adding up. The other issue is you can get stuck in queues waiting to have your photo done. When we went to the aquarium we were in a bit of a rush (train due and kids desperate to see the penguins) so I just told the lady in charge that we didn’t want our photo taken pretending to swim underwater and she ushered us through to the main attractions. It is nice for the kids to pose with characters but the blue screen thing can get a bit dull and expensive so don’t be afraid to say ‘no’!


Disney on Ice Frozen – a show with the warmest of hearts

Some things were just made to go together – fish and chips; salt and pepper; gin and tonic and of course Disney’s Frozen and ice dancing. You can imagine how delighted the production team behind the annual Disney on Ice tour were when the Frozen phenomenon first hit our shores – no Disney film has ever been more suited to an ice rink.

There was no shortage of mini Elsa and Annas (and a few Olafs) at Newcastle’s Metro Radio Arena waiting to see their heroines perform and they weren’t disappointed. Following a quick warm up and a tutorial on the snowman dance, Mikey, Minnie and the gang introduced a galaxy of dancing Disney princesses, stars of Toy Story, Finding Nemo and The Lion King for a big number about love. Then it was onto the main show, after last year’s dip into the Frozen story, this time we were treated to the whole tale- and what a treat! From the kooky ‘Love is an Open Door, the terribly cute trolls and an impressive inflatable snowmonster, to the show-stopping big number from everyone’s favourite snowman and a dancing reindeer – the show was an avalanche of entertainment. “Are they real?” asked four year old Henry “Of course” I replied!

The excitement was palpable as we all readied ourselves for Elsa’s big ‘Let it Go’ moment at the end of the first half. We weren’t disappointed as Elsa gave us a powerful and emotional dance backed by hundreds of tiny fans (and a few bigger ones!) screaming out the lyrics at the top of their voices. It was a real goosebumps moment and lovely to see so many children totally swept up in the moment.

Unlike in previous years, where we have been treated to snippets from other films in the second half, this time it was all about Frozen. The tiny fans, who had probably seen the film a million times before, reacted as if it was their first time – shouting at the baddies, cheering for the goodies and laughing in all the right places. The great thing about Disney on Ice is there is something for everyone and you only had to look around to see families from two to 92 having a great time.

The whole story was told at pace with great sets, beautiful costumes, perfect dancers and just the right amount of Disney magic to ensure snow in October in Newcastle! It was amazing how they managed to slim down the story, without losing the plot or any of the songs and they retained every bit of the excitement, tension and humour of the film. The principal dancers were the best I’ve ever seen, supported by an amazing cast of extras who did some impressive costume changes and didn’t put a foot wrong.

Every year Disney on Ice promises us the very best in entertainment, and yet again they more than exceeded my expectations. For my kids the countdown to winter (and more importantly Christmas) begins when we step out of the arena, still high on Disney magic, into the cold, dark night. This year was no different. We sang all the way back to the car, and all the way home – and the kids fell asleep with the biggest smiles on their faces – that’s the magic of Disney.

To buy your tickets for the tour click here.


I attended Disney on Ice Frozen as a guest for review purposes.


Don’t put your daughter on the stage Mrs Jones!

Last week there was a segment on Simon Mayo’s Radio 2 show where parents were discussing the alcoholic drinks they had smuggled into various school halls to get them through the hell of watching another kids’ performance. It was all very light hearted and did make me laugh (there’s little more mind numbing than watching other people’s children) but it also made me a little sad.

You see my seven-year-old refuses to let me, her dad or anyone else she knows watch her on stage. I have crouched at the back when she has performed in the school nativity, hidden between pews during the harvest festival and been banished to the wings for her annual dance shows. Not been allowed to be included really hurts. I thought watching the school play, the choir recitals and the two left-footed dance shows would be all part of the joy of being a parent for me and my husband. We want to be a part of her new adventures and show how proud we are. Instead we have to drop her at the door and leave or is some cases literally turn our backs until she has finished (cue some very odd looks at the village fete when her hip hop class took it the stage).

This stage fright even extends to her swimming lessons – I am the only person allowed to sit on the side of the pool as she slowly but surely learns her strokes. If ever I can’t take her she will only get into the water if her dad or grandparents leave once they have handed her over to the teacher.

It sounds indulgent but I really don’t know what to do. One year we decided to be brave and me and my husband sat (unannounced) in the audience of the school nativity play. All was going well until she spotted us and then the tears started and her sobbing ‘we wish you a merry Christmas’ became the talk of the school gate! So now every year I have to explain to her teachers that we aren’t an unsupportive family, in fact we are giving the best support we can by not being there.

Next Saturday is her annual dance recital – which is meant to be a chance for us parents to see what the girls get up to in class. There’s no costumes, no big numbers in fact it’s pretty low key but as ever we have been banned. It breaks my heart that we can’t be there with all the other proud parents but if it’s a choice between seeing her confidence grow a little by getting on stage and missing out or her refusing to take to the stage I know what we have to do. I do wish one day we will be able to stand and cheer with the other families.

Has anyone else experienced this situation – I’d love some advice or suggestions about combating it.


Home alone…



My youngest is having his first morning at school today. As predicted he ran through the door without giving me a second glance. His teacher even had to tell him to give me a hug before he darted off to explore. It was all in all the perfect start to his life at school but now here I am, home alone for the first time in seven years. Thanks to a juggling act The Moscow State Circus would be proud of, I have managed to get some more hours of work so I won’t be sipping endless cappacionos and lunching my way through the week, but for now as I sit at my computer it definitely feels strange:

  1. It’s deathly quiet. With only Ken Bruce to keep me company I am already missing the constant shouts of “Mummy” and just the general hullabaloo that comes with having a four year old in your house
  2. I have started talking to the pet rabbit! Not just saying hello but a proper (one sided) conversation!
  3. I feel like I should be keeping busy. I have a cup of tea in my hand but since I got in from the school run I haven’t been able to sit down. It feels wrong not to be on the move all the time, thinking about a thousand things at once. Turning on the TV and watching Phil and Holly would be like playing truant from school – what if someone caught me not rushing round like a whirlwind….
  4. I had prepped tea by 9.55am
  5. I have no intention of going anywhere today  – no running to play group, soft play, music class or swimming. The day seems very long without pre-school activities to fill it
  6. My ironing pile has gone and there are two loads of washing on the line
  7. I am up-to-date with my twitter, Facebook and Linked In accounts
  8. I may love my ‘hard as nails non-nonsence mum’ image but I miss my boy!




A happier ending and a new beginning …


Meet Doodles – our new rescue rabbit! She’s very nervous but we are showering her with love and affection and loving having her as part of our family. The kids still talk about Waffles A LOT but they are using what they learned from their first (short-lived) pet experience to give Doodles a great home!

Sadly she’s too young to have been spayed so I may have to face the dreaded visit to the vet in the future but for now we are just enjoying her! Where Waffles was bolshy, confident and independent, Doddles is shy, cuddly and apprehensive – two rabbits as different as my two kids! PERFECT!!

16/10/16 postscript – Sadly we have now lost Doodles too! I am not sure lightening is meant to strike twice and am starting to question the health of the rabbits when we got them as they both came from the same place. Needless to say that’s us off pets for a bit…..


The love we lost…

In April, for my daughter’s seventh birthday she got her first pet. A lop eared, albino rabbit called Waffles. The rabbit quickly became part of the family but as the weeks passed we realised it would be kinder all round if she was spayed. She was grumpy, she was nesting and my God could that rabbit dig! Anyway, a trip to the vet was arranged for a pretty routine op and then the unthinkable happened. Waffles had a reaction to the anesthetic and despite the superhuman efforts of the vets she died 24 hours later. So we are pet-less again but here is what the whole sorry episode taught me:

  • My sensitive, gentle seven year old is really quite tough – yes, she was sad when I told her that Waffles had died but there were no hysterics or hours of wailing. A few tears, a massive hug and she was happy to continue with her day. OK she wasn’t bounding about the place like Tigger but her quiet, reflective reaction made me realise Megan’s made of steelier stuff than I often give her credit for
  • Four year olds can be very perceptive – the day after we got the news, the classic song “The love I lost” came on the radio. Cue Henry, 4, “The love I lost was Waffles”. Out of the mouth of babes…
  • Mums get blamed for everything – the worst bit about breaking the news to Megan was when she turned on me. It was my fault Waffles was at the vet. I was the one who wanted her spayed. She was quite happy with her as she was (grief seemed to have erased from her memory just how moody, broody and uncooperative Waffles had become). As a mum, my shoulders are meant to be broad, and I wasn’t going to try to reason with an irrational seven year old, but I’d be lying if I said her accusations didn’t hurt
  • Pets can be replaced but it’s not the same – the decision was quickly made to replace Waffles when we get back from holiday but in no way has that lessened the sadness we are all feeling. The new rabbit will be loved and cuddled and be great – but it won’t be Megan’s first pet and it won’t be Waffles and I’m quite proud that in this age of commodity the kids haven’t regarded their pet as instantly replaceable
  • Vets and veterinary nurses are superhuman, caring professionals – throughout the unexpected 24 hours of trauma I had regular updates from the vets who loved and cared for Waffles as if she belonged to them. True heroes who went well beyond the call of duty.
  • I’m as soft as the next person – I like the world to think I’m a tough nut (although my close friends and family know the truth) but even now every time I catch a glimpse of the empty hutch I feel a stab of sadness. We only had her a few months but somehow that pesky rabbit had burrowed into our hearts. Damn!

How have you and yours coped with the death of a pet? Any advice? I’d love to hear your stories…