Me and My Girls…We’re Back! (And Living with ADHP)

It’s 10.20pm and Maggie is still not sleeping. She has been chatting, singing, screeching and kicking her cot for the past hour or so trying to get our attention. She has already pulled all the bed clothes off and thrown the dummy out of the cot but we hadn’t relented in ages. But the latest one was to shout that she had a dirty nappy. In fairness, I’m all for her screaming away and I’ll even tolerate kicking the cot for a good 10 minutes at a time but even I won’t let them stew in their own poo. It worked. The room smelled vaguely of a dirty nappy when I walked in, but then she had already had three bad nappies today so there was bound to be a lingering smell so I thought she was telling the truth. She had conned me of course; she was as dry as a bone but had succeeded in getting out of the cot for a few minutes, thereby cleverly and cunningly postponing bedtime.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a household with two babies still in nappies will smell vaguely of poo at any given time. On a good day it smells of talc powder, which anyone will admit is a yummy smell. But still the faint whiff of dirty nappies linger, so a good day will be talc and nappy. On a bad day it’s just dirty nappies. When you’re in the house, of course, you don’t notice it so much. It’s only when you come back in after being outside and step back a little when you open the door. ‘Phew. What the…?’ At worst it’s a bad nappy fermenting in the bin despite being wrapped in four beautifully perfumed nappy sacks, but even when the bins are emptied the smell still…lingers. It’s either that or spilled milk, and there’s plenty of that in our house, too.

Funnily enough when I was younger I hated the word; I couldn’t even bring myself to say it. Poo. Eugh, such vulgarity. The explosive ‘Peh’. The dirty diphthong ‘oooo’, often elongated for effect. I found it disgusting. Gross. Oh, how times have changed. After two years I have to admit that it’s very much part of my life.

So there you have it. I haven’t written a blog post since Elsie was three weeks old and she’s over four months now, and when I do it’s about poo. But that’s my life. Not exclusively, you understand. (Jesus that WOULD be grim. I once said that I have a thing about smells and it still stands. There are some seriously minging smells in the world and this is still one of them). The last four months have been the most hectic, frantic, bursting-at-the-seams action-packed, exhausting, crazy months ever. I’ll tell you about it sometime, whenever I get a minute. Ironically, it’s been ever more nuts since leaving London and coming back home where our family members are close-by, but that’s a lot to do with the fact that Maggie no longer goes to childcare and Johnny is commuting to London every week. Oh, and that Maggie has firmly hit the Terrible Twos.

But I wouldn’t change a single thing. Elsie Murray is an absolute joy to behold and warms my heart every time I look at her. She is probably the best baby in the world; she’s certainly the smiliest, most patient and most relaxed one. She cut her first tooth last week which wouldn’t have been easy or pleasant for her, but she managed it so well without much fuss at all. And Maggie Murray? Well, she’s still the funniest little toddler I’ve ever met and makes me belly-laugh every day. She’s not an easy child to look after as she’s got Toddler ADHP. (This is my own diagnosis, you understand, and is similar to its close neighbour ADHD but less a psychiatric disorder and more an appreciation for her fun, full-on nature: Ants Down Her Pants). It basically means that she can’t sit still for more than five minutes. That’s right, she doesn’t watch DVDs, doesn’t read stories or build train sets or draw pictures for hours at a time. One lovely friend, on observing Maggie’s ADHP at work said, ‘Well, at least you know she’s not stupid’. That’s for sure, but I just hope she will soon learn how to content herself and relaxxxxx because it is exhausting looking after her. Until then we just have to join her in her Tasmanian whirlwind adventures.

Oh, listen….silence. Happy days – it’s after 11pm and Maggie has finally gone to sleep. Elsie the dote has been asleep for hours but is due to waken in the next hour or so for her last feed and will be up before six for her first. Eight hours sleep? Poo! Who needs ‘em.

P.S. It’s good to be back :)

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Welcome to the world, Elsie

Today little Elsie Catherine Bee is coming home.

She is almost three days old and is the picture of her big sister, Maggie. She has a shock of black hair and gorgeous pink skin and unfortunately a big fat bruise over her right cheek where she was pulled out with big fat forceps.

But that will fade very soon we are told, presumably along with the memory of being hauled out of the womb against your will. Then things will settle down and we will all be together – Mummy, Daddy, Maggie and Elsie, our family of four.

My God, how on earth did that happen??
:)

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Sibling Rivalry

Maggie is about to become a big sister.

She has no idea what that means just yet. Even though her little friend Martha has recently become a big sister to baby Woody I can only imagine that they haven’t had many serious conversations about how that has worked out for her, seeing as they are both under 2. But..it’s as if she does know or at least suspect that there is something pretty big afoot and she’s not sure if she’s particularly happy about it. Recently she has becoming very clingy to her mummy and while she will willingly pull up my top and kiss The Bump, she very quickly pulls it back down again saying ‘Bye bye baby’.

I must say that I am extremely nervous about her reaction to the impending arrival of her little brother or sister. Like most first-borns I imagine, she is completely indulged, spoilt with love and attention, adored and admired by her doting parents and the apple of our eye. Imagine the shock of being ousted off her only-child pedestal by a little nipper who doesn’t even play with her and demands her mummy’s undivided attention for at least the first few months. Maggie completely rules the roost in our house and has no idea how to share her time or her possessions. She has no real meaning of the word ‘share’, even though she has obviously heard it being bandied about and often uses it when she’s trying to take a toy off someone else. ‘Share’, ‘Share’, she insists but really only means ‘Give it to me!’

One parenting expert Eileen Hayes wrote in 2004 that the age gap between children is thought to have an effect on the strength of sibling rivalry. It’s been found a gap of between two and four years often produces the worst jealousy, while there seems to be less of a problem if the gap’s larger (more than five years) or smaller (less than 18 months).
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There will be almost 21 months difference between Maggie and Baby, so according to the theory books things might work out just fine. We plan to do all the recommended things like buying a present for Maggie from the new baby and making sure we give her plenty of encouragement and attention, even when she is being too ‘helpful’. But nature has its own way of working and hopefully it will simply be in Maggie’s nature to look after and love her little brother or sister. After all, aren’t siblings the best thing ever???

I wrote in an earlier post 25 Things that I would love to have four children, mostly because I am from a family of four and couldn’t imagine life without my siblings. And it’s true! I’m sure we had our fair share of sibling issues and tissues over the years but I can honestly say that my life is enriched in so many ways by my gorgeous siblings. They are by far my best friends.

When I was expecting Maggie I secretly hoped she was a girl, despite everyone I met insisting that I was having a boy. Now I’m completely open to whatever is in store, although some day I definitely would love her to have a sister. They pull your hair and kick you right in the chin with their new roller-boots and sometimes are just downright mean, but then they’ll write you a letter saying they love you and offer to plait your hair and tickle your arm as you fall asleep and you’ll forgive them everything.

Sibling Rivalry? Let’s hope it’s more like Sibling Devotion.

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Me and my gorgeous siblings

It’s official: I’m HP – Heavily Pregnant

I think there should be 4, not 3 stages of pregnancy:

First trimester: weeks 1-12
Second trimester: weeks 13-24
Third trimester: up until Week 34
‘Officially Heavily Pregnant’ stage or ‘the Last Leg’: 6 weeks to go

This is the stage where NOTHING fits, not even your hubby’s T-shirt; and the baby moves into your pelvis so you start to WADDLE.

12 signs that prove I am officially Heavily Pregnant:

1. A friend asked me if I had enjoyed sledging in the snow last weekend. An innocent enough enquiry to which I replied, ‘Sledging? Are you feckin’ serious? I can barely walk!’ I only managed to put the final twig in place for the snowman during our ‘snowman building’ activity and even then the walk to the park nearly floored me.

2. My belly is stretching so fast at the moment that I have developed a rash that itches like MAD.

3. No amount of Walls Vienetta or Tangle Twisters can ease the heartburn, but I continue to try this method nonetheless.

4. Even though it has been -2 degrees outside this week I can’t seem to escape the heat. I am sleeping with the duvet off as if it is mid-summer.

5. I’ve started to have horrendous, anxious, horrible dreams.

6. The ‘nesting instinct’ has officially kicked in. To date I have cleaned out the fridge, reorganised the cupboards, sorted paperwork, bought lots of storage boxes. Oh and bought lots of Housey magazines. That counts, right?

7. I decided to work right up until 2 weeks before the baby arrives, just so I can enjoy a longer maternity break at the other side. But I’m beginning to regret it. I had a 2-hour conference call today and I found myself wheezing and panting by the end of it. And I hadn’t moved from my chair- just talked for a bit!

8. I am constantly switching between immense fatigue and little bursts of energy. So I’ll get the hoover out, put on a couple of washes and clean the bathroom in a spurt of energy, and then collapse on the sofa with an achy back and discomfort in my pelvis, thinking ‘why, why, why’.

9. I feel like my bump has exploded recently. I had my 34-week GP appointment today and my doctor suggested that this was very probably a big baby. ‘Well, it’s certainly a very big bump’, he laughed. Hmmm.

10. Who am I trying to kid? I’ve been HP since Christmas at least. I spent all of Christmas Day puffing and panting not only because I had eaten too much turkey but because my gorgeous red (non-maternity) dress which I had thought was sufficiently loose-fitting was FAR TOO TIGHT.

11. Even though we decided to spend New Years’ Eve at home, I got all dressed up for the delicious meal John was cooking, chilled a mini bottle of Prosecco for midnight, lit the candles and put the Amelie soundtrack on. Not having much ‘spare’ room in my belly anymore, I had eaten far too much by 9.30pm, was sick and in my bed by 10, and only staggered out of bed at 11.50 so I could watch the Jools Holland countdown with Johnny and make a wish upon a star.

I was back in bed by 12.05.

12. Maggie and I travelled to and from Belfast on our own over the Christmas holidays. On the way over she sat on my lap. On the way back she didn’t fit – there was no room! I had to put her in her own seat beside me when the cabin crew weren’t looking.

So here I am, 34 weeks and counting….

Here’s (nearly) looking at you, kid! :)

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Maggie kissing The Bump

Have yourself a merry little Christmas shopping…Part 1

Last week the Coca-Cola Christmas truck was spotted in London, and that can mean only one thing – while it’s far too early to put up your tree or wear your Christmas jumper, the Christmas season has definitely begun (and most importantly you should start planning your Christmas shopping now!)
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I don’t mean go out and buy everything in November, I mean write a list, look up ‘stuff’, google, search, meander websites looking for inspiration for the Christmas presents you will buy in the next 40 days. Everyone knows that there is nothing better than buying a few final pressies the weekend before Christmas and spending Christmas Eve over a glass of red wine wrapping them beautifully. But any good shopper will tell you that they have already done all the ground-work long ago, and in many cases have bought a fair amount of presents already. Just don’t tell anyone how organised you are – it destroys the illusion !

I’m a member of every Friends & Family / yummy mummy club there is and I often get sent vouchers and promotional codes for money off various products.

So to help out with the delightful task of early Christmas shopping, or just pre-Christmas ‘me’ shopping, I have collated a list of what I think are the best deals to be had on the high street over the next few days. But hurry! Some deals run out on Sunday.

Debenhams
32.5% off plus FREE delivery

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This week Debenhams has a 25% off Christmas Spectacular sale which ends on Sun 18 Nov 2012. To get an extra 10% off the 25% sale enter the code FJ23, (unfortunately the 10% off code doesn’t apply to concessions, fragrance or beauty). Delivery’s free over the whole Christmas period.

Gap 30% off everything
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By Mon 19 Nov, enter the code GAPSAVE30 online at Gap or download the voucher and take it to your nearest store. Delivery’s £4

Monsoon 20% off all Ladies and Children’s clothing
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This Friends & Family offer starts today until Sunday 18th November in store and online. Just enter code FRIENDS20 or show in store.

Dorothy Perkins 25% off
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Enter the code DPFWD online at Dorothy Perkins. Delivery’s £4. Or, avoid delivery costs by printing this voucher and taking it to your nearest store. Excludes Kardashian Collection.
Offer ends Sun 18 Nov 2012.

Free Oasis £10 gift card in £1 mag
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£10 minimum spend, so find something that price and it’s ‘free’.
Pick up this month’s Look magazine (usually £1.80 but currently £1 in Tesco stores, Nicole Scherzinger on the cover) and you’ll find the gift card inside, to use at Oasis online or in-store by Sun 18 Nov 2012. You can’t use it on sale items or jewellery.

There are a few things for £10 in-store, including tights, socks and slipper socks, meaning you won’t pay anything other than £1 for the magazine.

Sainsbury’s ‘Free’ £10 baby bundle (£3.71 spend)
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Buy nappies, print voucher and get £10 of goods
Nectar cardholders need to register to Sainsbury’s baby & toddler club online, get a voucher and buy any pack of Huggies Newborn nappies with that voucher. You must be pregnant or have a baby under the age of 3 months to get the freebie.

Sainsbury’s £12 off £60 grocery
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Online code for new customers.
Enter the code VVTC-3FTC-3PJN online at Sainsbury’s by Fri 23 Nov 2012. Delivery’s from £3.95.

Happy shopping everyone!

Stranger Danger

For the past two weeks I have been obsessed by the story which is every parent’s worst nightmare – little April Jones who is only five years old and who was seen getting into a jeep with a man last Monday evening and hasn’t been seen since. It reminds us all of the dreaded ‘stranger danger’ which we were all warned against as we grew up. But of course, the horrid truth is that it is often those known to us who can cause the most danger and it is likely that this is also the case with April Jones. The man stood accused of her abduction and murder is a local family man who attended the same parent’s evening as April’s mum and dad on the night she disappeared.

My friend, whose little boy has just turned two, recently told me she had received a visit from her health visitor who questioned her about child safety in and out of the home and asked how she was teaching her little boy to be aware of potentially dangerous situations. I’m not sure where I sit on the merits of educating children on stranger danger. In any case, Maggie is much too young to understand this. It is difficult enough to get her to look out for cars as she crosses the road. Even worse, it is unlikely that she would pay any heed to me. She is such a sociable little bunny and absolutely craves strangers’ attention. On the train to Scotland for Conor and Katie’s wedding she wandered up and down the carriages saying ‘Hey-yo’ to every single person who dared to look at her (and even those who didn’t). On the tube and on the bus her conversation-with-strangers skills have reduced the most uptight businessman to a cheery disposition. Even when she was a baby she would get really bored looking at and playing with me, but her face would light with animation when the postman arrived at the door with a parcel, or when a stranger arrived to attempt to sell us all sorts of crap. At the laundrette the other day she had a full-scale conversation with an old man who waited on his clothes drying, which mostly consisted of her saying ‘Hey-yo’ over and over again, a bit of jibber-jabber in the middle (which he seemed to understand perfectly) and finally ‘bye-bye’ as we left.

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To teach our children that every stranger is a potential threat is surely not right. To teach them to ignore or turn away from strangers when they speak to you; to scream and run away when they offer you to help you if you fall down seems downright rude if you ask me. The truth of child-abuse cases teaches us that we should in fact be more wary of those who aren’t strangers, but instead friends and family members and indeed people in the spotlight who on the face of it are charming, funny and ‘safe’. But teaching our children to be wary of those people closest to them? This is just too downright sad and dreadful to contemplate.

The best way of teaching your child to be safe is if you are with them when they are learning the lesson. If they can feel safe with you, then they can explore and test the boundaries of ‘safety’, knowing that you’ve got their back in case they wander too far out of their comfort zone. This is much easier of course when your babies are younger. Maggie’s adorable little ‘bag o’tuff’ is a present from her Nanny and is a cleverly disguised set of reins! She insists we put the bag on Maggie whenever we are out and about in case she wanders off. I have a thing against reins, but I know she has a point and there are some cute options now which make you feel less like you have a dog on a lead. When she outgrows reins she will have to know to stop and wait for traffic, to look out for potential danger and to never, ever get into someone else’s car but for now she isn’t let out of my sight.

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>Maggie wearing her Littlelife toddler rucksack which is available in a variety of designs.

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Goldbug’s Harness Buddy is a cleverly disguised harness which is as cute as your favourite teddy. It is available in a variety of animals, each with a 3 foot tail for parents to hang on to.

We wait for years to have our family, and we would do anything to protect them from harm. The reality we all live in unfortunately means being wary of certain situations and being more on our guard than we would like to be. Reins, curfews, safety gates – they are all a necessary part of keeping our family safe. But we can’t stop the evil people in our society infiltrating our happy little worlds and that is the scariest thought.

God bless little April Jones and her family.

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!

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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.

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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.

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Surprise, Surprise!

Lovely blogger Sarah Miles, author of not one but two yummy blogs, The Voice of Sarah Miles and What Would Nigella Do nominated me for a Beautiful Blogger Award. I feel very unworthy of this, particularly considering that I have been neglecting my blogging duties badly for over six weeks.

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But I think the award – which stipulates that I share ten interesting facts about myself – will go some way towards explaining my absence….

1. Six weeks ago I lost weight. So much so that on at least four separate occasions people mentioned it to me – and not in a good way. ‘Wow, look at the weight you’ve lost’; ‘Gosh Claire, have you lost weight?’; ‘Where the hell have you disappeared to?’ The issue is that when I do lose a few pounds it comes straight off my face so I look a little skeletal. Not a good look.

2. Five weeks ago I was performing in a show in Guildford, ‘Company’, with my wonderful friends Nan, Barry and Twig. The week before the show started we had a luxury Saturday night off from rehearsals so Twig, Nan and I decided to go out for a glass of wine and food with our poor, dear other halves. We had a deadly wee night and I got far too tipsy on only 4 glasses of red wine. The next morning I was up with a blinding hangover at 6.30am. At 8.30am I was being sick into the sink. I couldn’t believe that I was so ill and yet hadn’t had that much to drink, so I put the sickness down to ‘exhaustion’ from being in the show.

3. During rehearsals and during the week of the show I had pretty bad stomach cramps. I put the stomach cramps down to ‘exhaustion’ from being in the show and secretly hoped that I didn’t have a stomach ulcer.

4. Each night of the show I squeezed myself into Twig’s size 8 dress which her mummy had sent me over from Ireland. On the last night the button popped on the dress. ‘Must be starting to put on some of that weight again’, I thought to myself.

5. I have been so absolutely exhausted for the last six weeks or so.

6. When I explained my symptoms to John he jokingly asked if I was pregnant. It was a joke because I was then the skinniest I have been in a long time. It was also a joke because I have a copper coil fitted and it is practically impossible to get pregnant when you have one.

7. A copper coil is said to be over 99 per cent effective in preventing pregnancy.

8. Four weeks ago I would have recommended the copper coil to anyone as a good contraceptive.

9. I would no longer recommend the copper coil as a good contraceptive.

10. I am now twelve weeks pregnant with baby number 2.

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Fancy some Company?

Two things happened in the last three weeks that have prevented me from updating my award-nominated blog (as BLP should henceforth be known according to my PR friends).  On the night of said-awards my iPhone was stolen in the bar afterwards as I celebrated with my new-found blogger community.  Hence no means of updating my blog quickly and on the hoof.  Then I started rehearsals for Sondheim’s ‘Company’ which has taken over my life for the last three weeks.  Ergo no time to update my blog, do any housework, do the shopping, put my darling Maggie to bed or generally bless myself.

The show opened on Tuesday night at the Electric Theatre, Guildford to rapturous applause and rave reviews – at least from my friend Sean who was so impressed he wants to come back another night. And this is from a boy who has worked at Covent Garden Opera House, is musically trained and will always give an honest (and often damning) critique.  But he was bowled over by this production by Alex Parker, Alastair Knights and Scarlet Wilderink.  He thought it was slick, professional, sharp, sounded incredible, looked divine and was choreographed cleverly and with perfect timing and precision.

Sean had never seen ‘Company’ before but knew to expect interesting things from Sondheim having seen the London revival of ‘Sunday in the Park with George’ in 2006 at the Menier Chocolate Factory and falling in love with Jason Carr’s re-orchestration.  And of course like everyone else he had seen Tim Burton’s Hollywood version of ‘Sweeney Todd’ the following year so was expecting similarly quirky characters, memorable tunes and bizarre orchestration.  But even so he was pleasantly surprised at how much he enjoyed the music and how loudly he howled at the comedy in the script.  He thought ‘Drive a Person Crazy’ was one of the best moments in the show; a feat of musicality and choreographed genius and a brilliant performance from the three girlfriends, Meg, Jenna and Ana.  But his favourite moments were the poignant ones – he loved the pathos of ‘Sorry, Grateful’ sung beautifully by Elliot, Joe and Paul. And he roared with laughter at Nan’s betrayal of the wonderfully ‘potted’ Jenny, but his heart nearly broke when she sits down at the end of the scene and looks so heart-broken and sad and trapped.  And Rosie’s portrayal of the bitter and broken Joanne in the second Act with ‘Ladies who Lunch’ left him (and the rest of the audience) literally at the edge of their seats.

Of course there is room for improvement – for Sean that was mostly an issue with sound and getting the balance between the phenomenal 12-piece on-stage band and the soloists who sometimes struggled to be heard.  But he could hardly fault it – the lighting was ‘very New York’, the black and white costumes were ‘absolutely fitting for the production’, the overall effect was polished, professional and perfect.  And it made him want to come back and see it all over again.

So, come and see it for yourselves if you can – I promise you a night you will not forget.  But if you can’t make it to leafy Guildford have a sneaky peek at it taken at our dress rehearsal on Monday.

Johnny is coming on Friday night to see exactly what has kept his wife out galavanting every night for the last three weeks.  I hope he agrees that it was worth it.

It’s the Final Countdown….

Once upon a time I was on a national TV quiz show filmed at Pinewood Studios and hosted by Robert Kilroy-Silk. I happened upon this bizarre situation completely by chance. At the time I was a masters student in Belfast and got a phonecall from a friend of my sister asking me if I was free to go along to a hotel in town for some ‘TV thing’. In her words they were ‘desperate’ for young people to go and, being the middle of a week-day when only hapless students and OAPs were available, far too many OAPs had turned up.

I had no idea what was expected of me as I sat in the waiting room surrounded by the blue rinse brigade but as the mutters of conversation started amongst the motley crew it became clear I was completely out of my depth. ‘So, how many shows have you done before?’ ‘Five’, said one, ‘Going for Gold’ was my favourite. ‘I’ve applied about 10 times’ said another. I felt like Charlie in The Chocolate Factory when his teacher asks him how many Wonka bars he has bought. ‘Just one’, I said. ‘This is my first, I mean’. I still didn’t know what the auditions were for – but I was sure that if it was ’Fifteen to One’ I wasn’t going to last two seconds in there. General knowledge and quiz shows are NOT my forte.

But as luck (pure luck, mind) would have it I ended up at Pinewood two weeks later to film ‘Shafted’ – a horrible new quiz concept by Endemol where people vote off their fellow players one by one and in the final decide if they want to shaft them for all the prize-money, or share the money and risk being shafted by them.

The whole day went past in a blur and I spent most of the time behind my podium saying Hail Marys and praying Robert wouldn’t ask me a question. Thankfully that only happened if you bet enough money, which I never did.

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Can you tell I’m praying?

My tactics paid off – by keeping my mouth shut and answering a mere two questions (passed to me by my fellow contestants Jane and Michelle) – I found myself in the final where I was asked if I wanted to share £103,000 with my fellow contestant Michelle or shaft her and go home with all of the money (of course, if she shafted me too we would both go home with nothing).

It was surreal. I had spent the entire experience in a daze of white noise and whispered prayers, where we were playing with monopoly money and all I wanted to do was get off the stage and go home. What a bizarre experience. So what did I do? I shared (of course) and Michelle bless her shared too. (Before you ask, I gave half of the money away, bought myself a car and spent the last of the rest on my wedding six years later).

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Michelle and I in the heated head-to-head final

Anyway, why am I telling you all this?

Because, I now find myself in a similar surreal and bizarre situation where my dear little blog, which is still a newborn in my eyes being barely 4 months old, is one of the 8 finalists in Fresh Voice! at the Britmums BiBs (Brilliance in Blogging) Awards ceremony. I hadn’t even heard of Britmums (shame on me, I know) until I was introduced by a friend to one of the Britmums Live! guest speakers in March. It all snowballed a bit from there and now the big day has arrived; the Britmums event of the year – their annual Conference and Awards weekend.

I don’t have a ticket to the full weekend, which sounds like a right riot of guest speakers from the blogosphere, advice and stories shared between bloggers and ultimately the chance for a lot of mums and dads to sneak off for a kids-free weekend in London fuelled by G&Ts and Tweets. I guess I didn’t think in my wildest imagination that my little blog would ever make it to the finals and so never even thought of buying a weekend ticket at the time. But I am going to don my best dress and head to the Awards ceremony tonight which is hosted by Katy Hill with only my iPhone and my free ticket to keep me company.

I wouldn’t miss it for the world – not because I think I have a chance in hell of winning (my blog seems very premature and under-nourished compared to the competition), but because I am so proud of ‘Baby Loves Porridge’ and am so grateful and thankful to all the wonderful Bloggettes and Bloggeurs who voted for it to get here.

So, prayers at the ready.

Chin-Chin!

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Yay! Me and my mama made it to the finals!

Click here for a great post on all 8 finalists in the Fresh Voice category.