A girly weekend with Dora & the Ducks

There’s three in the bed again. And this time I’m not talking about Maggie- oh no, she’s quite happily tucked up in her cot with Mo, Rabbit, Mouse and Spike. I mean the good old Pregnancy Pillow. It’s already an essential part of the nighttime routine, I’m afraid. Makeup off, teeth brushed, contact lenses out, big feck-off pregnancy pillow tucked under the bump. Check check check and check. I’m 16 weeks pregnant and I look like I’m 26. I certainly feel like I’m 26 sometimes when I get so damned wrrrecked I can hardly think. I think Mother Nature is making up for those eight weeks when I was pregnant-and-didn’t-know and was busy larking about having fun and being carefree.

But last weekend all tiredness and apathy were put to one side as we prepared to host Mairead and little Ella Bella, Mairead’s middle girl. Mairead was treating Ella to a weekend in London – on her own! – to see Dora Live! in the West End. They got a red-eye flight from Belfast first thing Saturday morning and we met them in Hamleys, the incredible toy shop on Regent Street. I’ve never been in Hamleys, at least not properly, and definitely not experiencing all five floors of childish enchantment. Maggie loved it, particularly the large Thomas the Tank engine and train sets, and of course the bubble display that greets you as you walk through the doors. We met the girls at the Build-a-Bear section and spent a glorious hour choosing one gift to bring home as a present. God bless Ella- she took ages to choose and finally decided upon a box of wild animals for £4. Mairead got off very lightly indeed!

Nan joined us for lunch at Prezzo and then we made our way to Dora Live! on Shaftesbury Avenue. Thankfully Maggie got a free ‘babe-in-arms’ ticket as she is under 18 months, which was great as I was highly prepared for her not to last very long and to have to make a hasty exit during the show. She hasn’t got the greatest attention span and hasn’t quite learnt how to sit on her backside and relax. She doesn’t curl up on the sofa to watch cartoons, she loves reading books but they only hold her attention for ten minutes max and she is constantly on the go. But I was absolutely amazed as she sat on my knees for the first twenty minutes or so, mesmerised by Dora, Boots and Swiper that mean old fox. After the initial enchantment had worn off she got down and started to boogie to the tunes, running up and down to the stage and squealing with sheer, simple delight. It was a joy to witness and I felt very proud of my little theatre-goer.

Ella, meanwhile, was experiencing the same sort of delight. Not only had she been on an airplane to London (that magical place which is the subject of so many nursery rhymes – the pussycat who visited the Queen, the home of London Bridge), but she had also been on a big red bus, to the biggest and best toy shop in the world and now Dora the Explorer had come to London too and she was watching her LIVE on stage. It was almost too much to take in. She was enthralled by the story on stage, enchanted by the jungle in the second half (although it was ‘a bit dark’ she critiqued later) and delighted to purchase one of those ridiculous light-up thingys that they sell at all these kids shows. She bopped away to the music and told her mum and me to Sssshh! quite a few times when we were shouting too loudly at the characters on the stage.

It was a wonderful day, and the kids were so overwhelmed and wrrrecked they fell asleep the minute we left the theatre! Thankfully they woke up in time for an ice-cream and a spin on the carousel at the Embankment before taking the train back to leafy Barnes. Uncle John (a fav of Ella’s) made a feast on the barbeque, the beans arrived and we partied into the wee hours with Ella Bella in the middle of it.

The next morning Mairead and Ella got the first flight back to Belfast, completely knackered but overjoyed at how successful Ella’s first trip to London had been. Ella didn’t say much on the plane, except at one point to ask her mum ‘But what about Dora?’ and then fall back to sleep contented when she heard that she was back in Spain with Boots after her whirlwind trip to London too.