Friday, 15 August 2014

Here's One We Made Earlier.




Are you sitting comfortably? Then we will begin.

Once upon a time over ninety years ago someone in BBC Birmingham stumbled upon an idea to fill an empty hour of radio with a children’s story the whole family could enjoy. This continued until 1964 and was a much loved favourite with families across Britain gathering together to listen shortly before bedtime.

With the progress of technology and the invention and increase in population of television the BBC wanted to make shows which did not talk down to children while at the same time not scaring them, which educated them and which provided them with new experiences and entertainment.

Ninety years later it is doing just that, with medical programs such as Operation Ouch, wild life show Deadly 60, My Life which educates on the lifes of other children across the UK living different lifestyles whether through disability, religion or lifestyle and the infamous Newsround which never fails to tackle the big news issues of the day in a way children can understand and process.

Who can forget Blue Peter? How many of you have insisted Mum empty the rest of the washing liquid into a cup or pot so you can have the bottle for some Blue Peter inspired invention or craft? Of course they too have tackled some tough issues and raised wonderful amounts of money for charities across the world using everything from scrap metal, stamps and aluminium cans.

The exhibition is childhood. It has something for everyone, you will find yourself screeching to the children about Gordon the Gopher, Basil Brush, Bagpuss and the epic for the time Grange Hill much to their amusement or even Watch With Mother characters such as Andy Pandy and Muffin the Mule for the older amongst us while the Teletubbies, Strange Hill High and Wolf Blood and the brand new Furchester Hotel with Elmo and the Cookie Monster will entertain the children.

Of course things have moved on and children these days have access to all kinds of technology, with this the BBC have adapted with online games, twitter feed and even apps, in fact a new big brother to the CBeebies app for CBBC app is coming very soon!

Children’s TV has also hit a new target, parents and preschoolers in their droves turn out to see live shows of their favourite character and special appearances of Mr Tumble and Mr Bloom are usually a mob of people.

It is not hard to see why despite the invention of many new children’s channels BBC channels CBBC and CBeebies are still the channel of choice.

Here’s One We Made Earlier

THE STORY OF BBC CHILDREN’S BROADCASTING; PAST, PRESENT AND FUTURE.

Sat 19 July – Sun 12 October at The Lowry Theatre FREE. Open daily until 5pm.

http://www.thelowry.com/event/heres-one-we-made-earlier

Madame Tussauds Blackpool

Although smaller than the London attraction Madame Tussauds Blackpool still provides the chance to pass a couple of hours with a wide range of tv, music and sports stars, especially good on a rainy day of which we seem to have had many recently!

My daughter loved serving behind the bar in the Rovers Return and playing the drums with Freddie Mercury and there are many chances to join in with 'shows' taking a seat with Jeremy Kyle, Celebrity Juice and Jonathon Ross as well as games with Who wants to be a millionaire as well as a whole host of others including Ant and Dec, Ricky Hatton Torvil and Dean and the X Factor Panel. There are also many stars from the 70s and 80s and music stars from Michael Jackson, Peter Andre, Susan Boyle and Cheryl Cole.

There is a section narrated by Alan Carr which explains how the Waxworks are made and the length and complexity of the process.

Even for younger children who may not know who some of the celebrities are the attraction is set up in such a way that there are interactive games or activities on each level making it truly hands on and inclusive across the age ranges. There is also a new Children's Zone with Shrek and Bob the Builder. Children also have the chance to have a photo opportunity hanging from the building like spiderman.

Children eight and over can also take home a wax work of their very own hand for an additional price.

There are massies of photo opportunities and staff are situated in several key points with props to take family photographs (from £6).

In line with the seaside venue there is the crazy mirror hall, seaside entertainers wax models and props of giant sunglasses and rock. This is difficult to negotiate with wheelchairs but has an accessible route.

What made our visit here though was the staff. They went out of their way to help, explain how best to use the attraction and simply chat to the children making their experience a wonderful one. EVERY member of staff we dealt with delivered on customer service.

There are a small range of snacks and drinks available inside in addition to a well stocked merchandise store. Pushchairs must be left in a buggy park in the entrance although disabled access is available for children/parents and carers in wheelchairs. Toilets and baby change facilities were clean and readily available.

Check out the website for prices and information as many offers are available.

Horrible Histories Barmy Britain

It is no secret that I love Horrible Histories, after seeing the Horrible Science tour some years ago by the Birmingham Stage Company and witnessing small children shouting back chemical compounds and scientific answers within minutes because it had been made FUN I am of the firm opinion of marching on Gove and asking them to take over the science and history elements of the curriculum, so it was with much excitement in our house when we were invited to attend the new Horrible Histories Barmy Britain Tour.

Sometimes it is a risk to attempt to translate a television show to stage especially one so popular as the Horrible Histories tv series. It is also some feat to cover from Boudicca, the vikings and Henry the Eighth through to World War One in a two hour period and keep the attention of an audience from small children to adults but you know what Barmy Britain does it.

The show provides just enough of the gore, toilet humour and scares that children love without being too scary while bringing the stories of the old into the present through a modern take with presentations such as Who wants to blow up Parliment? A Guy Fawkes take on Who wants to be a millionaire, the hanging of the cast of ‘The Only Way is Essex’ and the no likey no lighty Take Me Out show for Edward 1. The Gory song of the Edinburgh body snatchers Burke and Hare will never allow me to listen to the Postman Pat song the same again!

With rapping and breakdancing Queens, Salford City Council traffic wardens and a smattering of jokes for the adult audience expect the excited screams of small children, much laughter and singing and audience participation from adults and children alike.

The falling of poppies was a sombre yet utterly beautiful moment magnified through the use of 3d and you could have heard a pin drop in an audience of mostly children who had been previously screaming and shouting throughout.

The show runs for almost two hours with a cast of four who are incredible.

Horrible Histories Barmy Britain continues its tour across the UK, Check the website for details.



http://www.barmybritain.com/tour/

Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Blackpool Pleasure Beach - Nickelodeon Land

When we booked Blackpool Pleasure Beach we had no idea it would land on the day of the worst storms in a decade, there was some anxiety the night before when the amber warnings went up but we hit very lucky and the storm evaded much of the north, very lucky as tickets purchased online cannot be changed to another day.

We purchased tickets online at a cost of £23 a wristband although prices and available offers vary, it is always cheaper to pre purchase where possible as the gate price can work out much higher.

You now require a pass costing £6 to walk round the park which allows you to access the park , the maze, water show and Pleasure Beach Express train.

On arrival we were quickly attended to although while queuing entertainers were available to keep the children amused. You cannot bring your own food into the park although you can leave and be given a stamp to get back in. Bags are security checked on entering.

With your wristbands you are given vouchers for money off in park, including food, merchandise and on our visit free ice skating which sadly we did not have time for.

We arrived at the park on a windy and wet day but apart from a couple of the flying machines and the Big One everything was running. As my daughter is not a fan of the huge rides we spent most of our time in Nickelodeon Land and this is were I will review.

Nickelodeon Land is a series of 12 rides based on popular children's TV characters.

From mini log flumes, roller coasters, flying rides and boat and water rides Nickelodeon Land is a none scary and fun introduction to thrill rides.

There are several meet and greats with characters including Sponge Bob, Dora and the Mutant Turtles and picture opportunities are available.

The rides were clean and well maintained and operated smoothly, being in October we did not have to wait in long queues. Large toilets are available within Nickelodeon land including several disabled, baby change and Ladies/Mens. There are large step in dryers available for wet rides although it did not seem to do much.

The staff we spoke to were lovely, the lady on the photo booth attached to the log flume was approachable and welcoming and enthusiastic about the resort, she also was able to recommend somewhere to eat for us which turned out to be lovely and genuinely seemed keen to make the guest experience a good one.

The staff on the other rides were also very approachable and more than happy to help and even joked with my daughter about how many times she had been on the ride.

My daughter (10) loved Sponge Bob's Splash Bash in which you spin around on water soaking other guests in the water with on board water blasters. There are also water blasters on dry land so watch out! You will get very very wet.

Another big favourite was the Blue Flyer, a mini roller coaster for smaller children and a great introduction to the faster rides.

Dora's Voyage was wonderful for smaller children and a real magical journey.

Photo opportunities are available on several rides and deals are available.

There are also two traditional fairground type stalls including hook a duck although we payed £6 to guarantee a medium toy which was tiny so found this a bit disappointing.

We ate at the Big Pizza Kitchen which is situated by the stage area of Nickelodeon Land. I cannot remember the exact amount but it was around £15 for my daughter and myself for unlimited pizza, pasta and salad as well as a drink. The food was hot and fresh and very nice and service was good.

Be prepared to be pestered for much more than the entrance fee by your children, there are many shops selling gifts, toys, slush puppies and ice cream including a very large shop in Nickelodeon land selling themed toys and games.

We purchased a Pleasure Beach hoodie due to my daughter getting soaked on a ride and the weather being cold, this cost £20 but has washed well.

I would definitely recommend taking a change of clothes as you will get soaking wet. Lockers are available from £3 for the day.

We had a great day and will definitely go back!

See website for details or rides, shows and ticket prices.
http://www.blackpoolpleasurebeach.com/rides/nickelodeon-land/

Monday, 14 October 2013

Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2



We were very lucky this weekend to attend a preview of Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2 at the Trafford Centre Odeon Cinema.

We join Flint in the moments after he has saved the Island from the giant food falling from the sky created by his very own machine, now the clean up operation must begin and who better to help him than his all time hero Chester V who has been asked to clean up the Island with the Live Corp Company.

But is Chester who he says he is and what of the now live tacodiles and shrimpanzees now inhabiting the Island?

Can Flint save the world?

The animations of this film are simply breathtaking, it is a beautiful film to watch. While ocassionally slow moving as the story and plot build it is brilliant at its best.

The characters are heartwarming and engaging and draw you in to caring about the outcome, it is one of the rare films in which you could take all the family and know it would be suitable and entertaining to an eleven year old as much as a three year old with a smattering of adult jokes to soar over children's heads.

A real family film, the children are desperate to watch it again.

Rated 5/5 from me and 100/5 from my daughter.

In cinemas 25th October
http://www.cloudy-movie.com/site/

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

The Rice Shack, Trafford Centre

The Rice shack is a new eatery in the Orient food court at the Trafford Centre. It is in the quick service take away area of the food section and general seating near the big screen is available.

They sell a variety of meals from around the world with dishes from Hong Kong, China, Korea, Japan, Jamaica and much more.

We were greated by a member of staff before we got to the tills, this person knew EVERYTHING about the menu (other food places take note!) This was a huge help and was able to explain dishes, how spicy things were etc and lots of people were asking advice, she was able to answer all questions.

On reaching the tills staff were again polite and helpful, we order Korean Spicy Kimchi (a Korean shredded cabbage) with Ground Beef Fried Rice and Tokyo Spicy Soba Noodle with shredded chicken, one was for a child and the member of staff mentioned the spice and offered to ask the chef to tone the spices down.

There is a sign up saying that food is cooked to order and if you are in a rush to ask what the quicker dishes are, despite this our food was ready quite quickly, food was hot and fresh and very good! My daughter loved having a go with the chopsticks although normal knives and forks were availables.
The cost of these dishes was £6.99 and included a soft drink or water.

For those who like to try something a bit different definately worth a visit, we shall be returning!


Head over to http://riceshack.co.uk/ for details on menu.

Sunday, 18 August 2013

Neilson Lemnos - Porta Myrina Palace



We have always seemed to go to the same couple of places on holiday while my daughter was smaller, small hotels providing a program of children's activities for a couple of hours a day and disco's and party dances at night however as she nears the upper end of junior school age we felt she needed something more.

We chose Porta Myrina in Lemnos as it looked a quieter hotel and we are years past the night club holiday scene.

Porta Myrina Palace is situated close to the capital of Myrina, a small fishing city with a small selection of tourist shops and cafes. In Myrina there is also a hillside castle, a fishing port and wild deer. The holiday cost just under £4000 for a week for three of us.

We landed at Lemnos Airport, a tiny military airport with one small shop selling snacks and drinks and a gift shop and a few seats. We were met by a rep for Neilson and taken to the coaches for the half an hour transport to the hotel. On one of the coaches there were not enough seats and children had to sit on parents knees meaning seatbelts could not be used, not a great start but not a disaster.

The hotel is situated on the sea edge and surrounded by mountains, it is a stunning setting, the resort is a water sport activities centre but caters according to the brochure for complete beginners too. There was plenty of equipment although more help to get on the water with the heavier equipment would be nice. There were many organised beginners sessions and instruction was good.

The hotel was spotlessly clean, free wifi was available in the lobby as well as table tennis an indoor pool and spa facilities and an unmanned gym.

The rooms where large containing the usual furniture plus a fridge and air conditioning. Our beds were made and rooms cleaned daily but the bedding was not changed during the week we were there but this was not a major issue. Interconnecting rooms are available for families and there are apartments in both the gardens and main hotel building. There are bars both in the main hotel and by the pool.

The hotel operates a cashless system where everything is charged to your room and you sign for it, be aware things can add up without you realising and be sure to check for mistakes, drinks are very expensive so be prepared (five euros for a milkshake, four euros for a cherry coke type drink!) water, tea and coffee are free with meal and juice is available at breakfast.

A photographer is on site continously and takes pictures while you/your children are taking part in activities, these are available to view and purchase by the pool bar. Its not cheap (think it was around £80 for your action shots burnt to a disk) but the photos were good. I believe you can also request family portrait shoots but we did not use this.

There is a small shop on site where you can purchase gifts, sun cream, costumes, goggles, sunglasses and a small amount of sweets but not much else, you can get water from reception but if you are looking for snacks/juice/bottles of pop you have to go into Myrina about half an hours walk. It is a pleasant walk but be aware there is no pavement.

Children under 5 can eat at 5pm for high tea and high chairs, children's knifes and forks and cups are available.

All meals are included bar three evening meals. The food was good although sometimes a bit samey and the flies drove us mad but not much they can do about that. It would have also been nice for younger children over the age of five to have had the choice to eat during the 5pm high tea as several of the 5 - 7 year olds were shattered by 7.30pm when the evening meal opens. The bar and meal staff were very good however. Children can eat with their clubs most lunches and some evenings.

There are several children's clubs, you pay for the Starfish age aged 4-23 months and for a supplement of £290 for one week or £465 for two weeks.

All other clubs are included, Sea Urchins for 2 - 4, Surf Busters for 5 - 7, Sharksters 8 - 11, Surf Squad 12 - 14 and Tag for 15 - 17. Although extra charges for boat trips, special meals and spa games are available. The nannies we saw with the younger children were very good. Children are given a rash vest, hat and bag. You could literally never see your children given the activity times if you so wished however we prefer to spend time together as a family.

The children take part in a variety of water and land based sports, the tennis instructor was fantastic and really very good with the children teaching them with a mixture of games and fun. The scuba instructor who took children in the swimming pool was patient and calm even with the children who were nervous and held on the them the whole time.

The children's club for my child's age had apparently been scaled down activity wise to give water access priority to the pay extra club Hotshots according to a regular. Despite this my daughter had a go at Windsurfing, sailing, wobble boarding and scuba diving which was more than enough.

The kids club also had evening socials where the children could be left to play while you ate dinner.

We had a couple of issues with the kids club while there. Firstly at the welcome meeting we filled in a form asking for any special needs and also swimming ability.
My daughter has additional needs and is also very quiet so will not always speak up if she needs help. I was not concerned as I had read two other reviews were children with additional needs were well looked after and in some cases given one to one (I saw this with a boy in an older group who the nanny was fantastic with) but I wrote these down and also spoke personally to the kids club leader verbally because she can swim quite strongly on her back but due to her additional needs not so good on her front and can panic sometimes if out of her depth in deep water and the Olympic size pool had no shallow end just a toddlers splash pool.

I was informed this was not a problem as they had confidence jackets and they would make sure she wore one. The club was not overly busy so I was not concerned. I did however walk down to the pool five minutes after this conversation as soon as kids club did just as the kids club staff were getting the whole group to jump in the deep water of the pool for the sharks cry and there on the end is m daughter with no confidence jacket. I went to get one and gave it to my daughter and was questioned by the other nanny and then found out the information of my daughters additional needs had not be passed on.

I also found on a couple of the days the paid for activity was half an hour after kids club started which meant either them missing that days session of picking them up after half an hour or shelling out 13 euros for the trip, I was told by another regular that there were meant to be free sessions on at the same time for those not doing the activity but sometimes this did not happen.

On the day of the boat trip which my daughter pulled out of for reasons below we were sent away after a tennis session (i had gone to watch) after being told they were going for a drink then to the boat trip and that was it, she was sent away without being allowed to join in the after activity drink at the bar.

When I took her down to the pool an hour later the Surfbusters leader was down there with children from my daughters age range too who had not gone on the boat trip but we had not been told about this and it was not on the information boards nor had she been told when being sent away from the tennis.

The other issue we had was a bit confusing and to be honest I was not sure if it was just our expectations were too much. My daughter had done wobble boarding and windsurfing and they had been in the swimming area in a shallow bit surrounded by nannies and very safe with lots of instruction of how to use it, I checked if the sailing was suitable for my daughter and was told yes it was fine. As the other activities had been done so safely I was not worried.

When they were taken onto the water three of them were put into a Pico boat and asked if they could sail, in the way children do one of the eight year olds said yes and so they were sent on the sea with no adult in the boat.

Within minutes they had span the boat round and capsized, not an issue and part of the fun! However several minutes later they went back out again and part of the sail which had not been fastened on properly by the adults had fell off meaning the children were stranded with no sail. They were hit by another boat of children (my daughter was hit in the face) the children were rescued by the rescue boat from the water (two of them crying) and taken back to shore.

I thought maybe sending the children out alone was just how it was done having limited experience of sailing however when back in the UK two sailing clubs we came across through other activities both were very suprised no adult had been in the boat with such young beginners or that they had put three beginners together on the sea at least and said unless it had been a small lake they would not have done that without the children being given proper instruction before hand.

We came back with a child terrified of the water and has had to have 1 - 1 swimming sessions to get past this.

I read before I went out that it was a bit like a posh Butlins, I would probably agree with that, most people love it, I would imagine children without special needs have a wonderful time and if you want a break from your kids its ideal but I felt after being let down on the first day by the pool I could not relax.

All in all we love Lemnos, the people in Myrina were fantastic and I would definately visit Lemnos again, the setting was as beautiful as the people. Whether we would use Neilson again remains to be seen sadly. It was a bit of a mixed bag for us.

Find out about Neilson holidays at http://www.neilson.co.uk/