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Festival fever – after Glastonbury, here’s your round-up of festivals for summer 2016 in Northants and beyond

(Originally commissioned for Northants Herald and Post)

THE British weather is as unpredictable as ever, which can only mean one thing: it’s the start of the festival season.

As the mother of all music festivals, Glastonbury, has just taken place in all its muddy glory, we bring you a round up of some of the hundreds of UK festivals in Northamptonshire and beyond and some advice for those thinking about going for the first time with the family.

camp bestival6355 [965635] If you’re travelling with babies and toddlers, festival camping can be daunting, but a couple of fun days in a festival field can be easier to handle – and cheaper – than having to fly abroad in school holidays.
You need to accept that everything might not be operating-theatre-sterile for a couple of days, but there’s little that can’t be sorted with a multitude of various wet wipes.
A travelcot may seem like a heavy thing to lug to your campsite but it will allow peace of mind if your smaller offspring are prone to wander.
Take a tent that you KNOW how to put up in advance and if possible, invest in your own small trolley or wheelbarrow. Days can involve a lot of walking and it’s easier to entice a squealing toddler into a blanket-lined barrow than an unwieldy buggy that’s lost a wheel. Pack a set of warm clothes for evenings as it can get chilly (all-in-one rainsuits for kids are worth bringing) and give loads of time to get to stages for a favourite act.
Inevitably you won’t see everything on the line-up – sometimes you’ll just need to chill out with the kids and listen from a distance for your own sanity’s sake. Letting your bigger kids off the leash to wander without you may feel like a worry, but it’s an essential part of growing up and you should make sure they have a watch and regular meeting points. Don’t rely on phones as signal and battery life are usually limited.

Rucksacks and bumbags work better than handbags, cashpoints will be on site but be prepared to queue and pay fees, and you’ll probably survive with lots of socks but just two pairs of footwear – trainers and wellies.
If you’re bringing food, but only want to cook with minimal effort, a camping stove and kettle, cereal bars, tortilla wraps and noodles weigh little and can save you a fortune on festival food. Disposable barbecues are great if allowed and packet bacon will last a couple of days in a coolbox. Tea bags, coffee and UHT milk will feel like luxuries and you’ll be glad you invested in that multipack of earplugs from Boots.

 Festival line-up for summer 2016.

 Glastonbury, June 22-26, Pilton, Somerset. SOLD OUT.

Featuring: Muse, Adele, Coldplay, Foals, Beck, ELO

www.glastonburyfestivals.co.uk

 

FOLD (Freak Out Let’s Dance), June 24-26, Fulham, London.

First year of this Chic and Nile Rodgers curated weekend, with Beck, John Newman, Alison Moyet, Thompson Twins

foldfestival.com

 

Love Supreme, Lewes, July 1-3

Featuring: Grace Jones, Burt Bacharach, Lianne La Havas, Kelis

lovesupremefestival.com

 

British Summertime with Barclaycard, Hyde Park, London, July

This sees various big names for all music tastes play throughout the month, including Massive Attack, Kendrick Lamar and Jamie XX, Patti Smith, Carole King, Florence and the Machine, Take That and Olly Murs, Alabama Shakes and the Mumfords.

www.bst-hydepark.com

 

Northampton Town Festival, Racecourse, Northampton, July 2-3. FREE.

OK, so not strictly a music and camping festival, but the first year the town show and hot air balloons have been on the Racecourse for some time. A huge festival of family fun over two days.

www.northamptontownfestival.com

 

Tannerfest, Loddington, Northants, July 9.

A firm fixture on the Northants music scene, this small but perfectly formed event is a laid-back day out for all the family.
www.tannerfest.com

 

Wireless, Finsbury Park, London, July 8-10.

Featuring: Calvin Harris, Chase & Status, Jess Glynne, Disciples, J Cole, KYGO, Boy Better Know. wirelessfestival.co.uk/

 

Electric Daisy Carnival, Milton Keynes Bowl, July 9

Massive dance music event featuring headliners Avicii, Axwell, Martin Solvig.

uk.electricdaisycarnival.com/

 

Lovebox, Victoria Park, London, July 15-16.

Featuring Jack Garrett, Major Lazer, Diplo, Kano, Stormzy, Jungle, Chet Faker.

loveboxfestival.com

 

Secret Garden Party, Huntingdon, Cambs, July 21-24.

Featuring: Primal Scream, Air, Caribou

secretgardenparty.com/

Camp Bestival, Lulworth Castle, Dorset, July 28-31.

The little sister of September megafest Bestival and a favourite of our clan, this is a great place to kick off the school holidays and start festivaling with the family, and you’re quite likely to see former music stars chilling out with their own young ‘uns as well as the world’s largest bouncy castle. This year’s line up features Fatboy Slim, Tears for Fears, Squeeze, Katy B, Bananarama and Jess Glynne, with turns from Dick and Dom and Mr Tumble.

www.campbestival.net

 

Green Man festival, Brecon Beacons, Wales, August 18-21

Featuring Belle & Sebastian, James Blake, Warpaint and Laura Marling

www.greenman.net/

 

V Festival, Staffordshire and Chelmsford, August 20-21

H&P Ed is feeling very old; he attended the first one of these back in ’96. The big names are flying in for this year’s V Festival with Justin Beiber, Rihanna, Sia, David Guetta, faithless, the Kaiser Chiefs, Little Mix and All Saints on the list.

www.vfestival.com/

 

Atomic vintage festival, Sywell Aerodrome, Northants, Aug 20-21

This 1950s-themed festival features music, pre-1963 cars and hot-rods, lots of food ideas and stalls, set in the aerodrome and surrounds over two days.

www.atomicfestival.co.uk/

 

Reading and Leeds festivals, August 26-28.

The traditional after-exam-results experience for teens, this year’s line up across the two cities includes The Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Fall Out Boy, Foals, Disclosure, Vaccines, Eagles of Death Metal and Biffy Clyro.

www.readingfestival.com www.leedsfestival.com

grand_finale Shambala [965632]

Shambala, Kelmarsh Hall, Northants, Aug 25-28.

This is a lovely family festival with a real eco-ethos and a huge sense of humour. Dressing up is encouraged and while the stages usually feature less-well-known but excellent musicians, they’ve brought in the 80s soul divas Sister Sledge to headline on Friday. The circus and arts fields are always amazing.

www.shambalafestival.org/

 

 

ENDS

 

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Adult who complained about John Lewis toddler tantrum needs putting on the naughty step

THIS week I was asked to talk about whether it was right that a mum, whose 16-month-old toddler was throwing a full-on tantrum, was asked to leave a John Lewis store after a complaint from a customer. No, of course it bloody wasn’t.

Apparently, a customer complained about the crying noise to a member of the menswear department who then asked the frazzled new mum to leave.
I’m pretty sure this was a one-off by a member of staff who was either inexperienced, having a bad day, or simply moronic. What he should have done is walk the stupid moaner off the premises, not the mum.
Oh yes, I know it’s pretty irritating when a kid cries in a public place. It’s MEANT to be annoying, to get grown-up human beings to pay attention to a child who might be in peril. But this wasn’t in a restaurant, or a bar, or a library. No one goes shopping for the peace and quiet.

So hey, Mr John Lewis customer, why don’t you walk away for a few minutes and come back when the tantrum’s over rather than throwing your toys out of your pram and COMPLAINING? Clearly when you wanted your own way as a kid, your parents must have pandered to your every whim, instead of leaving you to bleat and cry until you realised it was pointless, and did what you were ruddy-well told.

Yes, I’ll happily admit to bribing and threatening my offspring to get them to stop them kicking off in public, but a 16-month-old? Too young to understand I’m afraid.
The only thing you can do as a parent with a screamer is ride it out, or carry them bodily somewhere else to distract them. I did have a particularly effective hard stare that would silence my older sons (not Bonnie, she just didn’t care), but not at this age. You can lose a finger trying to strap a wriggly, screaming pre-schooler into a buggy, or get kicked in the face by flailing feet. Parenting the under-fives is like an extreme sport. Done daily.
Trust me, most parents are also swearing under their breath when toddlers throw a paddy in public. It’s not a situation anyone enjoys.

So get over it, shoppers-without-babies. Walk away, put your headphones in, have some empathy. Because it’s these screaming kids, mine included, who will be working all hours to prop up the economy in a few years time, so you can have a pension in your old age. Move on tantrum police, there’s nothing to see here. . .

 

 

 

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For the cheek-tweakers out there, a column to update you on our fab four

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Bonnie, 8, Billy, 12, Jed, 18 and 16-year-old Dougie, whose childhoods were documented in local papers

MY 12-YEAR-OLD son is looking simultaneously horrified and delighted. His eyes are saying, “Get her off me!” while his mouth is showing a wide smile. His cheeks are being held adoringly by someone who could pass as his granny, but who is actually a complete stranger.

This mild-mannered mugging in the supermarket is not unusual for my children. They were once the subject of a weekly newspaper column, which detailed their early years and my often chaotic parenting. And unbeknown to them, they still have fans. Readers who saw them appear in print as chubby babies, naughty toddlers, and mischievous teens who still recognise them, although the column stopped when the paper ceased being a daily a few years ago.

“Look how you’ve grown!” beams the friendly stranger, leaving Billy unsure whether to thank her or correct her; because in his head he’s not grown enough, being one of the oldest but tiniest in his year at school.

Meanwhile the lady has moved on to ruffle the hair of eight-year-old Bonnie, now looking like a fully-formed human being rather than the wobbly toddler the reader remembered. “And don’t you look like your mum?” she asks. Bonnie has become used to this observation and doesn’t yet see it as the worst thing on earth (although no doubt that will change). I chat to the lady a little longer, filling her in on what our older two are doing and thanking her for keeping track of My Bloke’s career as editor of another paper.

As we bid our farewells to carry on shopping, Bill and Bonn start to question me along the lines of: Who the hell was that and why does she know so much about us? (They had been much younger when the columns ran and possibly thought that all children had their photos taken on a weekly basis.)

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Jed, Billy and Dougie, the early years

We carry on the discussion back at home with the elder sons, Jed and Dougie, now 18 and 16 respectively, who make sure the younger two understand that THEY were FAR more famous in their day, as they had their tantrums, birthdays, school applications, parents’ evenings and every other form of embarrassing scenario detailed to the public at large on a weekly basis for more than a decade. Cheek-tweaking by strangers was a weekly occurrence for us, not just a one-off, they claimed.

But how would they feel now if I’d kept writing about them? My change of job from full-time journalist to university journalism lecturer meant that I didn’t really get to discuss parenting mid-range teens. It would have been just as they hit the door-slamming years, and I would have had perfect source material for a parenting column, with topics like girlfriends, puberty, under-aged drinking, learning to drive, going abroad on their own or, critically at the moment, exams. But is it fair to expose the lives of your children as a paid job?

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Dougie, aged 8, baby Bonnie and Jed, at 10.

Social media would possibly have exacerbated their embarrassment even more, because ten years ago they wouldn’t have been so ‘shared’ via Twitter and Facebook, although they were online.(They don’t have their own social media open to us, quite wisely.)

Feedback was generally pretty good on the column, readers wrote letters and emails sympathising or sharing their own stories, and often it would be grandparents as much as parents who read it, because they could see how attitudes and styles of bringing up kids had changed so dramatically.

Unlike the plethora of parenting advice books, the column wasn’t there to lecture anyone about the best way to bring up kids, but to share experience and tips. Well, that was the intention anyway. I did get relatively regular letters written by someone claiming to represent the entire population of a nursing home who apparently detested me and spelled this out in no uncertain terms. Then there was the mother who wrote to tell me that she was so appalled that I didn’t give out party bags at one particular birthday that she was GLAD her children did not know mine. Ouch.

I’ve always found it curious how hate-mail tended to be from women, who you’d think would be more supportive of the sisterhood. But no, I’m afraid the most zealous critics were female. At least I can say they were engaged enough to be bothered to actually write, buy a stamp and take it to the postbox. Today we’d call them trolls.

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Jed and Doug today

Is writing about your own children in advice columns over-sharing? (And yes, of course I’m aware that I’m sharing their lives again, as I’m writing this right now). Is there a difference between parenting advice columns and the ubiquitous Facebook posts of the landmark events (or otherwise) of proud parents?

OK, so I did sit up in bed and write a column for the newspaper about the arrival of our new baby daughter on the day she was born. But because readers had spent nine months following the saga of my fourth pregnancy it seemed only fair to give them the conclusion. And to be frank, I was so pleased that having a home birth had been such a monumentally better experience than going into hospital, I wanted other people to understand there was nothing to be scared of. Plus, I was slightly off my head on post-partum painkillers.

DSC_0068If there was a story in the news about a particular parenting issue, like childcare, or health issues, I’d usually have experienced it one time or another, and knew how lonely, confusing and demoralising those early years as a mum can be. Jed and Doug are only 19-months apart in age, and like chalk and cheese, so I’d had a pretty intensive apprenticeship as a working parent, at a time when you were only allowed 3-6 months maternity leave. By the time Billy and then Bonnie came along, I had four children under ten and had given up caring what people thought of me.
I just wanted to tell people all the things I wish I’d done differently. Or even, and we probably don’t do enough of this, detailing parenting tips that had actually worked.

Today the urge to write about the offspring is somewhat offset by being able to share pictures and updates to family and friends via Facebook (which I try and use just for personal stuff). I will occasionally get asked to write the odd thing for a parenting site or magazine and happily rant away on BBC Radio Northampton whenever they are short of a guest with forthright opinions on bringing up baby.

Jed is now 18, just coming up to his A Levels, learning to drive, playing rugby, going out on the town and looking at universities. yes, terrifying, I know.
Dougie is almost 17, in the year below, doing AS Levels, playing first-team rugby (his team are in the Nat West Schools final at Twickenham in nine days time, and he’s fighting to get back from his first ever injury).
Billy , now 12, has started ‘big school’, also plays rugby, and does street dance, loves to cycle like his looky-likey dad, has successfully ingratiated himself with the sixth form at school, despite being a year seven.
Bonnie, now 8, doesn’t seem the slightest bit bothered that she’s the only one left at primary school, where she does gymnastics, yoga, recorder, ocarina, swimming and unlike her brothers, has never had a bad report. She’s girlier than you might expect (so much for nature/nurture) and somehow rules the roost. They are often hilarious and sometimes idiotic and make us incredibly proud.

Meanwhile, if you see my kids out and about, don’t be afraid to give them a tweak of the cheeks. They love it, really.

 

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Review of Cinderella, with John Partridge and Cbeebies’ Sid, at Royal and Derngate, Northampton, 2015

1 Cinderella_Prince and Dandini_7642 copy

John Partridge as the Prince Sid Sloane as Dandini Pics by Robert Day

Cinderella Review, Derngate theatre Northampton.

THERE’S a tradition with many families at Christmas that shows more faith than going to midnight mass – and that’s booking a year in advance for the Derngate panto.
Lots of Northamptonians do it – after all, the Derngate pantos are fairly traditional and you should reasonably expect something with a famous face, some sparkly costumes and the requisite number of ‘He’s behind you!’s.
They are always Qdos productions, a vast entertainment group who put on commercial, traditional pantos, usually with at least one celebrity turn, up and down the country. Next door at the Royal you’ll find something a little less panto and a little more ‘Christmas play’, and this year it’s the Snow Queen.

4 Cinderella_Ugly Sisters Cheryl and Rita_7030

Bobby Delaney as Ugly Sister (Cheryl) Ben Stock as Ugly Sister (Rita) Pics by Robert Day

If it’s dames and double entendres you’re after, Cinderella has those in abundance. Ben Stock and Bobby Delaney as the Ugly Sisters give it the full-on panto dame routine, with amazing costumes and good comic timing. But they get rather pushed into the chorus by ex-Eastender and rumoured Big Brother contestant John Partridge as Prince Charming, whose stripping and whooping and winking make you think that Cinderella would be furiously swiping left on the fairytale version of Tinder.
When Partridge started singing, and he can certainly carry a tune, my 7-year-old turned to ask: “Is it the interval soon?” She and her 8-year-old friend fidgeted far more than they usually do at the theatre while our 12-year-old, trying his hardest not to sound un-cool, asked if some of the jokes were really suitable for kids, “as it isn’t even like you have to work out what they really mean, it’s just rude stuff.” Then he went back to playing games on his phone.
I’ll admit I was watching through gritted teeth through quite a lot of Cinderella, as young actress Rachel Flynn battled to be heard above her braying prince and the whiney Buttons, played by Britain’s Got Talent semi-finalist Danny Posthill, whose main talent was rapid-fire impressions.

6 Cinderella_Prince, Dandini and company at ball_7513

John Partridge as the Prince Sid Sloane as Dandini Pics by Robert Day

There was a big cheer from the audience when Cbeebies favourite Sid (Sloane) appeared, and he made the cheerful most of his role as the prince’s servant and sidekick Dandini. The beautiful glittery costumes and athletic dance moves of the girl dancers got our seven-year-old back watching and the audience seemed to be whooping along with it all. Either that or they’d been wise enough to have a proper drink beforehand.

There is an intended ‘wow’ moment involving a mechanical horse, some bubbly snow and some stage flying work, but I’m afraid I couldn’t stop laughing at the horse’s gammy leg.
I’ve been to a lot of pantomimes over the years and despite the jokey reputation for it being a long way from high art, the writing has to be good to carry the clichés and flamboyance that comes from having to recycle much-loved stories and carry slightly-famous non-actors.

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Rachel Flynn as Cinderella

With Cinderella I got the feeling that the production bosses just couldn’t be bothered this year. Stick some faces up there, work some good dancers into a few routines, call the local dance school for some sweet kids for the chorus, find someone off a TV talent show that at least the teens will recognise and shove in some fart jokes. Work them all solid for a couple of months and take the cash that people effectively pledged without knowing what they were really going to get.
If you’ve already got tickets, or were thinking of going, don’t let this put you off. But if you can, make sure you drop into the theatre’s new Bar Hygge beforehand, for a ‘quick stiffener’. There you go Qdos scriptwriters, you can have that one for next year.

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Annoying things 1

Gah!

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Another set of headphones fails to sneak unharmed through a 40degree wash.

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The Science Museum’s Energy Show Live: An electrifying visit to the theatre, review by Matt Walsh

The Energy Show“Who wants to blow things up?”

That’s the question that powers the fun at the brilliant Energy Show which will be at Northampton’s Royal and Derngate from April 28-30.

Produced by the Science Museum Live, the show follows the adventures of futuristic students Annabella and Phil as they race against time to complete their presentation on the nine types of energy.

And that means blowing things up.

The safety goggles go on and the students conduct dangerously exciting experiments, such as setting fire to methane-filled soap bubbles or exploding hydrogen-filled balloons.

Mixing live action, computer graphics, science and Star Wars jokes, this is an enormously fun show which teaches some of the key principles of physics and chemistry and will be particularly useful for those studying at key stages two and three.

Be warned though, there are some big bangs in this show. The producers suggest it’s suitable for those aged seven and above.

I watched it with a science-mad four-year-old who was a little worried at some points as the audience shouted for ever bigger explosions.

But he left singing a familiar tune played by “lightning” created by a specially tuned Tesla Coil.

This is an inspirational, high-energy science show which delivers education and entertainment for both children and adults.

energy_show_tour_image_627x392pxThe Energy Show will be at Royal and Derngate from the 28th to the 30th of April, with shows as follows: Monday 7pm, Tuesday 11am, Wednesday 1.30pm.Tickets are £16, and available on 01604 624811 or by visiting http://www.royalandderngate.co.uk.

Matt Walsh

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I don’t believe in writer’s block, but I think I’ve got it

I haven’t written anything in ages.
I know, I hear you say kind reader, if you’ve been bothering to come back to this site, (which is awfully patient of you).
I have tried.
There are several half-started posts sitting in the drafts box on a variety of topics from neglected regional newspapers to badly behaved children. But none are finished.
Yet I’ve been writing every day for almost 20 years. From local news to gardening and parenting articles, PR guff and copywriting, university lectures and reports, and of course, blogposts.
Ours is a house of writing. Two journalists. No escape.
Articles are written with ruthless efficiency. 1,500 words in a couple of hours? Easy.
But then I stopped.
Firstly too busy. I had a 9,000 word essay to write, which wasn’t journalism and was bloody hard. I’m still not sure it was right.
Then I was too backlogged with the amount unwritten.
More procrastination.
Then I just couldn’t.
Then felt depressed I couldn’t. “Don’t be stupid Hilary, just write a bloody post,” said the voice of my sleepless nights.
Still nothing. Blank screen.
Before the ‘block’ I lost a long term weekly writing contract (this was some months ago), without any real notice, explanation or actual final date.
I suspect it’s had a deeper effect than just the initial anger and disappointment, especially as it was left hanging so I couldn’t offer my services elsewhere.
Whatever the cause, my previous skepticism of writers’ block is cancelled.
It’s taken nine days to write this tiny blog post . . . and it sounds a bit whingey.

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Seriously, do you let your parents call your university lecturer or employer? It’s time to break free

Courtesy OnlineCollege.org Hovering Parents in the Workplace Infographic

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We went to the Olympics already, oh yes we did.

. . . and we’re in

LOTS of love for the Olympics eh? Us cynical old Brits might have been moaning about the fuss, the expense and the disastrous ticketing, but now the medals have started to come in for Team GB, we’re hooked.

We got back from a festival in Dorset in the early hours of Monday and on Tuesday were en-route to the Olympics in London. I’d tried to get tickets twice unsuccessfully but it was third time lucky as we booked four (the maximum allowed) to the first round of women’s hockey. Not so bad as our eldest son is hockey mad, taking himself off on the bus to Moulton each Saturday morning to start training at 9am.

Bloke had already offered to spend the day with our daughter Bonnie, 4, at his Mum’s in Letchworth, and our matches were in the evening session starting at 7pm.

So we got the train (pre-booked tickets, and a free London Travelcard came with the Olympic tickets)  at lunchtime and were surprised at how quiet the well-staffed King’s Cross Station was.

Then we walked around in a big circle trying to find the Javelin train which goes direct to the Olympic Park. It started to rain, and then we saw the sign saying the train was out-of-action.

A bloke on the gate told us there was already an hour’s wait for the next Javelin so we took the ‘normal’ tube to Liverpool Street and then Stratford. Then the wave of spectators hit us, just at the entrance to the Westfield Shopping Centre. It was heaving. I’d mistakenly thought it was wise to try and use the loos in the centre before queuing to get into the Olympic Park. Not so.

We were eventually funnelled into the park where there were few queues for the airport-style security checks. All the staff were very friendly with just the faintest and strangely welcoming hint of British sarcasm with each ‘have a nice day’. You can only take in a single rucksack per person, which gets put through a scanner along with your coat and pocket contents.

Once in the Olympic Park there’s an air of theme park impressiveness; you are actually there. The stadium is huge and while not yet open, you can see how fabulous it’s going to be when the athletics events start.

Being with three sons, their priority was to find ‘the world’s biggest MacDonalds. But on the way eight-year-old Billy, who is a little obsessed with ‘collecting stuff’ (football cards etc), temporarily distracted us into a Cola-branded ‘pin-swap shop’. Pins are enamel badges with (I didn’t realise) are sold and swapped at each Olympics. There are tonnes of them, and Billy wanted to spend his pocket money on a 2012 lanyard and two £5 badges. After a LONG time choosing we got to the till to find all the £5 and £6 pins were sold out. ON DAY THREE!

Getting in

He bought one for £7, a Cola branded one which barely mentions the games, and on the way out a kindly American ‘swap’ man, with hundreds of pins to trade, actually gave Billy a mascot pin from the 1996 Atlanta Games – FOR FREE! What a nice chap.

Our quest for the fast-food megastore was confusing. We found the huge burger bar but you couldn’t sit inside. Only on one of dozens of parasoled wooden picnic tables, all which were occupied. We perched on the end of one until the occupants got fed up and made room.

The architecture is amazing, and the telly doesn’t do it justice. The red ‘Orbit’ sculpture

The Orbit

cum lift tower thingy is stunning but you can’t go up it unless you booked tickets when you booked online for the event (which we couldn’t). The boys were most disgusted that I wanted to look at the gardens and plants around the park, which had once been home to allotments. For the gardeners among you, there’s a lot of meadow planting everywhere, mainly marigolds, daisies and cornflowers. I’m not sure they’ll look their best for long.

Riverside

The corporate branding everywhere is overwhelming. We dodged the EDF energy pimps trying to entice us into their cinema, and couldn’t be bothered to wait 40 minutes in the queue for the BP ‘free photo by the stadium’ when we could just take our own.

I couldn’t get the promised free Wi-Fi to work so Tweeted rather than blogged, and by the time we got to the Riverside Stadium, hosting the hockey, I was virtually out of phone battery.

The Riverside stadium is about a ten minute walk past lots of other landmarks, and there are food and drink stalls everywhere you turn, selling overpriced soft drinks plus beer and cider (almost £5 for a small bottle of beer). The boys rather liked the enormous ‘pretzels’ which were like big hunks of bread for £1.80. The loos were plentiful if basic, and I noticed that all the hundreds of hand dryers had white stickers placed to conceal the brand name. Ridiculous.

The Riverside is an enormous mass of scaffolding poles with seats that go rather high for those with vertigo. The pitch is a bright blue ‘water based’ one (my son had to explain) with pink borders and it worked very well with the yellow ball. It was an 80s-style dayglo extravaganza. We watched Argentina get beaten by the USA and the Aussies thrash the Germans. The atmosphere was fantastic. Everyone in the stadium seemed in a great mood and there were lots of Mexican waves. One bonkers Australian mum entertained the crowd with shouts of ‘Aussie Aussie Aussie – oi, oi, oi!’

By the time the second match started it was dark, and the stadium and all the various landmarks were all lit up against the new London skyline with an almost full moon too. It was quite magical to be there.

Leaving was easy, and the Javelin train was working well (it took six minutes to get back to St Pancras International, just across the road from King’s Cross). Sadly the train back to Letchworth was dirty and dilapidated, and the cheaper-than-usual first class tickets I’d invested in were useless as the one carriage was full and the boys had to sit on the floor.

However, it was a great day and despite my reservations I’d highly recommend you make the effort to keep trying for tickets if you have none. It’s not cheap though. Our four tickets cost £20 each. The train was about £40. Food and drink (you can’t take liquids in but there are water points) cost another £60 quid or so. And the boys were given ‘extra’ pocket money on the day, which of course, they spent on sweets . . . in WH Smith on the way home.

 

 

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The Rescue Run 2012 – sign up now!

I’m a terrible runner, but I do have a ‘move your lardy arse’ app on my phone which occasionally pushes me around Northampton’s Racecourse for around two and bit miles.

A good friend of mine, Selena, takes the whole running thing to a new level and for the past ten years she’s helped raise thousands for our Air Ambulance via The Rescue Run, which takes place each September.

It’s not just for serious runners – although you could start training now to get a good time – it’s also for those starting out with a vaguely good intention of getting fitter or those who simply want to walk, hop, skip, jump or push a buggy around the 5K course. I opted for the walking with buggy method a couple of years ago while the rest of the family jogged.

You can raise sponsorship or just turn up on the day and pay an entry fee. You need to fill in an application form so Selena and the organisers have an idea of the numbers. The poster and forms are below:

Good luck!

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2493 RESCUE RUN 2012 Entry Form

 

 

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