Silent Sunday

Box Hill in November

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We had a lovely day out at Wisley over half term and my mum enjoyed talking to the children about the various types of plants and trees – and remembering not to use the Latin name as it makes the children go a bit cross-eyed.

Trying to get into the spirit of things,  I was desperately searching for any plant I could actually identify.  (My mum has green fingers but sadly I didn’t inherit any of the gardening genes).

At one point we were looking for the children’s playground and one of the Wisley staff pointed to the tree-laden horizon and said “It’s over there right next to the Oak Tree.” I had to ask: “Which is the Oak tree?” ( I can recognise them close to, of course, but not on the horizon!)  Mum rather sweetly tried to spare my embarrassment saying – “Well,  it’s a very unusual shape for an Oak!!” Not so unusual she and Wisley-man didn’t recognise it though!

Anyway, just as we were leaving and admiring a stream gurgling alongside the footpath, I spotted some plants I not only recognised but could name.

” Ah children, do you know what those are?” I said pointing very specifically to the plants.

“Grass” said my daughter. ” Reeds,” countered my son.

” Yes very good but what kinds of reeds?”

Blank faces

“You must have read aout them in the Bible”, I suggested. ” You know – the story of Moses?”

Blank faces.

“A woman is trying to save baby Moses when the wicked King is trying to kill all the boy babies”

“Oh yes I know that story,” my daughter says. I should add perhaps that they do go to a church primary school !

“And what does she use to help her? It starts with bull…” I said helpfully ” Bull…”

“Bulldozers! Yes – bulldozers,” they shout triumphantly.

Bulldozers? thousands of years ago. Moses was hidden in a trench dug out by bulldozers. Or bulldozers were used to fight off the King’s men. Or Moses was hidden in a bulldozer. The story is definitely due for a modern makeover!



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We’ve just watched The Curse of the Midas Box – a British fantasy adventure film starring Michael Sheen, Sam Neill, Ioann Gruffudd and Keely Hawes. It’s a great thriller for an Autumn evening – tucked up on the sofa under cosy blankets with some hot chocolate and is just out on DVD!

The film opens in Victorian London, when the life of the young hero Mariah Mundi (Aneurin Barnard) is turned upside down after his parents vanish and his younger brother is kidnapped. After an encounter with the charismatic Captain Will, Midas Captain Will Mundi follows a trail of clues to the majestic Prince Regent Hotel on a remote island. There he discovers a hidden underground world of child-stealing monsters, deadly secrets and a long lost artefact with the potential to grant limitless power at a devastating supernatural cost: the Midas box. With the fate of  his family  (and the world) at stake, Mundi has to unravel the curse of the box – find it and stop it falling into the wrong hands!

The film hasn’t had the best reviews but it has a great cast, a good plot and I rather enjoyed the adventure and the colourful labyrinthine world revealed beneath the mysterious hotel. So what did the kids think?

Alexander (8)  liked the hero Mariah Mundi because he wanted to save his brother and he thought it was funny when they thought the big truck was a monster – ( although he was taken in too).  He also liked the part when the Midas box turned into a life-sapping gun! He writes: It was very good! (From Alexander)

Amelie ( 10) says she liked the plot because it had lots of twists and turns! Her favourite characters were Sacha, the maid at the hotel who helps Mariah in his search for his brother and ” the bad guy” Otto Luger (Sam Neill). Sam Neill She also liked the final scenes in the mines where children are working as slaves and everyone is looking for the Midas box.

Judging by the end of the film, there may well be a sequel, or two!



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Sunday in Hyde Park

No words. To see other Silent Sunday posts or add your own go to Cosmic Girlie


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Dog types

This afternoon we went for a walk along the canal at the top of Ladbroke Grove in what was the only sunshine of the day. The children are fascinated by the boats and what they must be like inside. As we got to the end of one mooring, Amelie spotted a rather beautiful, but slightly cautious-making, large black dog on the back of a barge.

“Awww he’s so cute,” she said walking up close.

“Careful,” I warned pointing to the sign in the window saying Beware Guard Dogs!

It was then I noticed a man on top of the barge with some kind of power tool and so I said hello and joked that the dogs probably aren’t very frigtening at all.

“No,” he said “actually they are very good guard dogs.” At this I seized the opportunity to find out more about life on the canal.

“The children,” I said pointedly, “are very interested about what these boats are like inside – particularly how many bedrooms they have. Yes,  I realised the potential dangers of my line of questioning. But I felt the kids were a suitable safety net.

Anyway he was very helpful. “This one has one at the end and another in the living room that folds away – you can get the with lots of beds it all depends on the layout.”

After a short chat  we said our goodbyes and as we walked away Amelie whispered to me: ” Do you think that man was blind?”

I screwed up my forehead in confusion. “No, he didn’t look blind did he? why do you ask that.”

“You know – because of guard dogs.”

If you are not with it leave a comment and I will explain further – but I am still laughing. As I pointed out,  the man was using a power tool – not a wise move on the top of a boat if you can’t see!

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The Lego Movie

Lego station and The Lego Movie

What child does not love Lego? What parent does not remember their own experience of Lego?  So The Lego Movie was always going to arouse some interest – and the demands from children that they should be taken to see it. If once was not enough, or you didn’t see the Movie at the cinema (is this possible?) then the DVD is now out.

The gist of The Lego movie is this – an ordinary lego construction worker – you know like the ones in all your boxes of lego – is recruited to save the Lego universe from an evil tyrant. Why is he chosen – because he is believed to be the Special One. The tyrant, President Business,   wants to glue all the lego pieces into the right places – so they can’t be moved. Very clever – you know we’ve all been tempted after the car or plane has lost various bits and no longer looks like a model but a broken toy! Anyway I digress – if you are alive and living in Legoland clearly you do not want to be glued down and The Special One needs to save Lego World. At first the joke appears to be on Emmet – lowly construction worker – as the Special One is supposed to be a master builder and Emmet is clearly not blessed with many brains, or we assume ability to build his way out of trouble. Or is he? The thing about Lego today of course is it is all about following the instructions to build rather complex cities or fantasy worlds – so theoretically anyone can do it – even a construction worker. But the Master Builder needs to be creative too surely? These two ideas play off against each other throughout the film as we wonder whether he can possibly pull it off.  As I sat down to watch the film I admit I expected to be distracted by emails and just pretend to enjoy it. In fact though it’s very clever, witty and quite absorbing. In the end the joke is perhaps on us for assuming that they have made a mistake in choosing Emmet as the special one – our prejudices are the same as the most basic plastic Lego characters.  There’s plenty to think about, plenty of action and you will be overawed by the number of lego bricks they must have used and the work that must have gone into making the film.

Favourite moments for me were: when Emmett uses his head to attach a wheel to the vehicle to get away from the ( bad) cops; the fact that they can build a get away vehicle, that flies;the fact they can change the shape and type of vehicle they are in while it is moving – of course they can,  it’s Lego!

There are moments when it feels a bit like an advert to encourage kids to pester for more lego and a particular collection : ” this is Middle Zealand” followed by a list of all the characters that live there. But for the most part you are drawn into the action. And this reminder of Lego-you-can-buy and this-is-all-just-a story-boys-and-girls  provokes an ironic smile,  rather than irritation that the brand is being pushed down your throat. At the end it’s fair to say the children were delighted; they did not ask me to buy them any more Lego; and they still sing the theme tune : “Everything is awesome, everything is cool when you’re part of a team..”  There are worse things for an 8 and 10 year old to sing!

If you want a view that’s more down with the kids then this is what they thought in their own words and with their own typos:

“I thought that was very funny and cool! I liked the best style best and the evil guy. my favourite part is when bad cop says hi to his parents and then the evil guy glues them to the floor. Another favourite part is when everything collapses in the builders world and everyone has to be in chains. I like the idea of having a double sofa that Emmett invents and I hope in the future that you could actually buy it in a shop. I like it when it goes into real life with the dad and the son.

I like the song “everything is awesome,”.Lol! It’s very Catchy and has a great tune like any good song. This film I think is for all the family to enjoy and love! I would definitely rate this a 4 and a half star maybe even a 5! Great film!”

Amelie, aged 10

And from my son:

“I think that the lego movie is very funny when the pirate turns into a photocopier and the robots print their butts on the face or him and suddenly he turns back to normal again and knocks them out. Lol.  I liked how the man upstairs was the father how at the end the little sisters lego comes and says, “we-have-come-to-destroy-you” and when batman said its not like a huge boat is going to come and save us and a giant boat came out of nowhere to rescue them, haha. that lovely review was written by Alexander the person who is 8 and wants to be a footballer when he grows up.”

I was sent the DVD for review by








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Children become artists at the National Portrait Gallery

National Portrait Gallery

We had a fantastic afternoon at the National Portrait Gallery over the Summer. It’s not somewhere I would have instantly thought of as being good for taking kids – more somewhere I hung out in my younger days whether I was looking for inspiration as  photography student or having lunch with a girlfriend in the rather cool downstairs cafe. However, these days they are extremely kid friendly and have lots of family activities scheduled, especially during school holidays. We went along for one of the timed sessions but didn’t get in as it was rather popular (top tip – be early if you want to do a specific activity and check out their website for times). But clever old NPG had a drop in session running at the same time so you could go into the gallery – find a painting or photograph that inspired you and turn it into a poster. All the art materials were provided and the slightly unsmiley security guards were actually fine with the children sitting on the floor and drawing.  It was a great way of getting them to really engage with what they were looking at (of course, being children they decided they didn’t like drawing people, which was a fantastic revelation in a portrait gallery , but the day was saved as they found some dogs to draw instead!). The children loved it and took it very seriously and despite rather being under everyone’s feet a lovely old gentleman made my day when he said “I wish my mother had brought me to something like this when I was a child.” It was so nice not to be made to feel that the children were actually rather a nuisance in a ” grown up place”  - and I have to admit lovely to feel as a parent maybe I was doing something right for a change!! Whoever, you were. Thank you.

There are lots more activities planned for half term – everything is free but some events require tickets which are handed out an hour before the session starts. Check out what’s on here. I for one will be back with my budding Picassos – and in the meantime I’ve already got tickets for the Virginia Woolf exhibition which is on for anther month.


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Openhouse London

London Openhouse 2014What a fantastic scheme Openhouse London is. More than 800 buildings and spaces of architectural interest are open to the public over one weekend each year – for free. They might be newly built or Victorian homes modernised by 21st century architects;  or Georgian townhouses furnished as they would have been 200 years ago. They could be church towers  or commercial buildings or construction sites like Crossrail. Some are often open to the public but use this weekend to allow people in without paying- others are private homes, normally not for the public gaze. It’s organised by boroughs so you can find places close to home – or go further afield. This year we stuck to places around W11 – from the interior workings of the organ at St John’s Church on Ladbroke Grove to private houses in Elgin Crescent, Leamington Road Villas and Westbourne Park Road. They were all inspiring. Can’t wait til next year!

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Day after the Carnival

Day after the Notting Hill Carnival 2014

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Silent Sunday

Tower of London

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Arts and crafts at Leighton House

Leighton House, Holland Park

Fabulous afternoon at Leighton House in Holland Park. It’s an extraordinary house with a Moorish partially tiled interior and a fountain – inside! But today it was their first annual Summer Fete with a range of children’s crafts on offer: lino-block printing , book making and woodcuts, paper mosaics and the chance to make simple Victorian toys from paper including windmills and thaumatropes. Course you know what a thaumatrope is:   circle of paper with a bird one side and a cage on the other and you spin it, now the bird is inside the cage! Easy to make when you know how and lots of fun. In fact the whole thing was lots of fun. Volunteers from the William Morris Society,  The Charles Dickens Society, Benjamin Franklin’s House in Westminster and the Ragged School Museum were among those running the crafts. Everything was free and you were even encouraged to bring your own picnic as there was no food or drink – or anything in fact – on sale. The whole day was totally devoid of pester power – it was brilliant. The only way to spend money was to go inside the house and we will definitely be back another day to do that (again) . I really hope they will repeat the day next year – keep a look out for it.  The Ragged School Museum in Tower Hamlets has free activities for the under 12s on Wednesdays and Thursdays for the rest of the Summer Holidays between 10 and 5pm so you haven’t missed out on your chance to find out more about Victorian crafts – and education. And all the other organisations mentioned have plenty going on so check them out. Nope wasn’t paid to write this, in fact, they didn’t even know I was there!

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Silent Sunday

Milan cathedral

No words.

This idea comes from Mocha Beanie Mummy. To see other Silent Sunday posts or add your own go to Cosmic Girlie


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