Can you bottle childhood? Or what’s really great about seven-nearly-eight…

We had a particularly nice weekend, this weekend.

We didn't do anything spectacular, go anywhere in particular… but it was just filled with lovely domestic moments, and a couple of brunches out and about. We're hunkering down for winter I suppose.

I think part of it is that Chiswick Boy is just delightful at the moment. Seven going on eight is just such a wonderful age and I wish I could bottle it forever.

But I think I've said this at every age. As parents every age seems to bring something new: new challenges, new great experiences. For first time parents we're always doing everything for the first time.

We're parenting a baby for the first time, then a toddler, then a preschooler, then a seven year old – and each moment is new for us, as we've never parented exactly that age before. And of course as our children change, we change too. We grow with each one of their experiences, just as they do.

A bit of their experience reflects on to us as we watch them change and learn, and we also change as a result.


Never the same

I suspect that even for parents doing it for the second, third, fourth or more time it's also always new. Because each child is different. I guess. I'll let you know for sure hopefully one day when we finally mange to conceive number two.

Or maybe you can tell me, in the comments below.


What's so great about seven-nearly-eight?

So what's great about this age?

Well first of all Chiswick Boy is developing his own passions and interests.

He's been carrying his journal around with him all weekend – literally carrying, not even in his backpack, but held proudly in his hands.

He has always been a prolific drawer and painter, but a couple of weeks ago he asked for a proper big notepad just like mummy's to use as a journal. (I do a lot of art journalling and writing.)

On Saturday we did a mammoth arts and crafts sessions, settling down for four hours of art journalling. I wasn't expecting it to last so long but Chiswick Boy was just enjoying himself so much.


Look at all that lovely mess! I really do love it!

We got out all the stuff from the art drawers: scrap paper, magazines to cut up, paints, sharpies, mod podge, glitter, glue, rubber stamps and ink pads. And of course we laid down last weekend's paper on the dining table first.

We stuck, painted, stamped and wrote in our journals happily together, from 9am to 1pm.


Bubbly inside

“I'm so bubbly inside,” Chiswick Boy declared happily, hugging me with joy. 'Bubbly inside' is what he uses to describe that really happy feeling inside.

It's funny, because in language we do talk about joy 'bubbling' up inside us.

So it's clearly not an expression that's come about randomly. As adults we may have forgotten, but children remind us that joy really does feel like bubbles inside us.


We're going on a cat hunt – we're not scared



Chiswick Boy has also spent the weekend stalking the cat. Now I don't mean that in the terrible way it sounds. But with his Kiddie camera in hand, he has been following the cat around and filming it, David Attenborugh style.

His voiceovers are delightful.. 'Cat video number 1. The cat is on the hoover… now it's off the hoover. It's swimming through the sea of carpet. It's now on the table. It's eating the fried egg of rejuvenation'

(Yes our cat was really on the table eating the remains of Chiswick Boy's breakfast fried egg.)

By Sunday night I could hear Chiswick Boy in the airing cupboard saying 'Cat video number 52… the cat is on the second shelf. I'm putting the light on, rescuing him from the dark dark night…'


A world of wondrous possibility

Artist, film maker, doctor, writer, explorer, dancer, actor…perhaps the greatest thing about being seven-nearly-eight is that being all these things is possible.

At seven-nearly-eight the rot of self-doubt hasn't yet crept in – the world is still a beautiful place.

And that is again one of the many blessings of parenthood. For we see this wonder in their eyes, and when we do so we can truly believe in that instant that the world is a magical place



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A Chiswick 5 mins with… Hazel Carey

It's my regular feature, catching up with some of the fabulous and varied people that help make Chiswick and West London such a vibrant place to live.

This time we meet Hazel Carey, who owns West Eleven Nannies and West Eleven Pet Nannies.

Read on and find out why drinking bellinis at 10:30am at the Parlour, and staying warm in coffee shops help make up Hazel's love for Chiswick.

How long have you been in West London?

I have lived in West London all of my life, was born in the ‘old’ Queen Charlotte's Hospital in 1974.

Favourite place to unwind in Chiswick?

In the summer, I enjoyed visiting (the now gone) All Bar One, sitting outside in the sun, drinking cocktails with friends.

And what's your hidden gem?

I’m still searching for it.

Where do you go to escape the cold in Chiswick?

Most probably one of the coffee shops on the high street. I am not a fan of the cold but I am partial to a hot chocolate and it is so comforting, it prepares me for the day.

I do also like the Parlour in Chiswick, took my daughter there to get her hair done earlier in the year, and we were given lovely coffee cake and a glass of Bellini whilst getting our hair styled. It was only 10.30am!

And your favourite person to share it with?

My daughter Shannon. She is my favourite person to share everything with.

Best place for kids in Chiswick?

If I were to ask my little 5 year old friend Maya, who lives in Chiswick, she would probably say, Maggie and Rose and the small playground on Chiswick Common.

She does however also love the Waterstone’s Book shop, and can spend nearly an hour looking at all the toys and book in there.

Tell us about your day job, in a nutshell

My day consists of juggling email accounts, interviewing nannies, chasing up references andkeeping up to date on Social Media.

If we have any pet sitting bookings, either I will do it myself or I will get one of my Pet Nannies to do it. (We are all Police Checked and are all currently undergoing our Pet First Aid Course too!)

In regards to the dog walking, we go over to the clients home. We are often given keys in advance or they are hidden for us, we meet the dog, and off we go for a couple of hours. We are out in all weathers – we lovethe outdoors, especially with our four legged friends.

We return the dogs to their homes and ensure they have a clean bowl of water down before we leave. By which time they are tired out and just want to sleep. zzzz

Apart from this, what other hats do you wear?

I am a Mother, an Auntie, a Sister, a Daughter, a Carer, a Friend, an excitebale individual at times, and a 1-2-1 childcare coordinator for an autistic child for a few hours every week. And so much more…

Is your glass half full or half empty?

I never understood this saying. I am however a realist, and strive to succeed in all that I do. If it doesn’t work, at least I know that I’ve tried.

And I am also a Taurean, so I’m grounded and yeah you could say Im stubborn and determined. I’m also very honest!

Secret talent:

I can juggle 3 balls. Do a headstand. Swim under the water holding my breath for a long time. (Not all at the same time.)

Philosophy on life:

“If you don’t ask, you don’t get”

And I couldn't let someone who specialises in nannies and pet nannies to go without asking….

Favourite fictional nanny?

Mary Poppins is my first favourite, but also like the new Nanny McPhee films.

Most unusual pet you've been asked to nanny?

Have not had any unusual requests yet, but I would like to look after a bearded dragon. They are beautiful creatures, and I also love geckos.

Find Hazel at and


Want to be take part in this feature? Or know someone who should be? Drop me a line at chiswick _ mum @ yahoo. co. uk


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Eco cleaning – Greener Cleaner review

When Greener Cleaner asked if they could send me a box of cleaning products I said ‘yes, yes please, anything to encourage me to clean'. Chiswick Daddy just rolled around on the floor laughing – 'they've sent you a box of cleaning products…that will be the day.'

Actually, I wouldn’t have said yes to any old cleaning company because, while I may not be a brilliant cleaner, one thing I'm strict about is only using eco products. (I wrote a little bit about my imperfect ways in Little Ms Pinterest – a study in imperfection.)

What do I mean by eco products? Well I’m neither an expert nor a scientist so can’t reel off facts and definitions here. I'm sure that 'eco' has a defined meaning set down by Defra which I'm probably using incorrectly.

But for me as a mum my definition of eco is based on my two key concerns:

1. Chemicals – I like to keep our household as chemical free as possible, for health reasons.

2. Environmental – danger to aquatic life and future planet from all those nasties going down the drain.

A bit of a mess

It is an indication of how slovenly I am when I tell you that the box lay unopened for ages, before I finally said – right that’s it, let’s open the box.

Oh God. Okay, okay I'll tell the truth.

When I looked for it I couldn't find it. I know, I know. The irony is not lost on me that my house was so disorganised that I COULDN'T FIND the box of cleaning products that had been sent to me.

Actually it was somewhere quite sensible. I'd put it under the dining room, ready to unpack and photograph with Chiswick Boy.

Here they are again, neatly arranged into rows by Chiswick Boy.

A spoonful of sugar…

Now one thing I do sometimes that makes cleaning more palatable is that I get Chiswick Boy to join in. He loves having a good scrub and loves making things gleam.

I’ve never been one for buying toy brooms and mops. I figure may as well let them have a real scrub if it’s what they want to do. Plus I'm much more likely to spend my precious home time cleaning if I know it's also having fun with Chiswick Boy.

I'm not saying that kids should have tons of chores, but I do think that kids can actually have a lot of fun joining in with what you do, and it can turn something horrid – like Sunday morning cleaning – into a fun game.

You can do anything for 15 minutes

Another thing I always do is set an alarm for 15 minutes. I’m a firm believer that you can do anything for 15 minutes. It’s how I tackle everything – from writing this blog post to blitzing the bathroom. (Blitz may be too strong a word here!)

It’s a really good method for me at the day job too. I never come in to work and procrastinate, faff about with email etc. I have my most important task already decided on and I set my alarm for 15 minutes and just dive in. Only then do I let myself go and make my precious cup of coffee.

I've found that the 'you can do anything for 15 minutes' helps in a myriad of situations and is definitely a key part of my life hack / life coping strategy.

Eco tools for eco homes

I’d naturally assumed that a box of green cleaning products would be filled with sprays. But there was just one spray, and the rest were fab cleaning brushes and cloths.

I have to say that I've never given great thought to the tools I use to clean. Although I do turn old clothes (that are too worn to give to charity) into reusable cleaning cloths and dusters, as I'm keen on reusing and reducing waste where we can.

It makes sense that choosing greener tools complements choosing greener sprays, and I was really interested to see the range they sent to me.

The range is called Eco-Flek and the cleaning tools are made from 40% sustainable wood pulp and 60% recycled plastic. The cloths are microfibre cloths. And they all come in four different lovely colours, and have handy holes in the handles for hanging up in the right rooms in the house so – sigh – you might actually be prompted to use them more often.

I was sent a utility brush; scrubbing brush; pan brush; dish brush; dustpan and brush; window/glass wiper; plus a range of microfibre cloths. And a cleaning spray.


The Litmus test – would I buy them again as a paying customer?

Yes definitely. I mean, hopefully I won’t need to buy new brushes too soon. But I'm happy to find a company that uses recycled plastic and sustainable wood pulp to make their cleaning gear. And I can honestly say that I'll restock from them when the time comes.

Thanks to Greener Cleaner for sending me the products. Please note that the box of products was sent to me as a gift. The rambling words, views and photos are mine. You wouldn't want it any other way – and nor would I


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That was the week that was

I didn't know whether to do my usual write up of my week that was. After Friday's events in Paris, writing about my own small domestic ups and downs seems petty in comparison.

But to write about the events themselves, when I wasn't there and can lay claim to none of the wrenching sadness that the victims' families and friends feel, well that doesn't seem right either.

I will say that in London we have a special affinity with Paris. Certainly parts of London do remind me of Paris, and vice versa. Whether it's suddenly coming on a wide boulevard with outdoor cafes, or the statues at Kew Gardens and Chiswick House which always remind me of the Jardin du Luxembourg.

And Paris has a special place in my heart because of the time I spent living at Shakespeare and Company, one of my favourite places in the whole world.

On Twitter I read how Shakespeare and Company sheltered 19 people on Friday night, so they didn't have to turn to the streets and head home.

One of the things that always sticks in my mind from Shakespeare and Company is the sign downstairs which underpins its philosophy to welcoming strangers and drifters:

Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.

And I was also reminded of this philosophy with the #porteouverte hashtag that was being used on Twitter on Friday, for people willing to offer shelter to others trapped unable to get home that night.

There are people that can write much more about Friday than I feel is my place. But I will say that as parents, we hold the next generation in our hands. All the people involved in Friday – the ones that helped others, and the ones that wreaked misery – were children once, as ours are now.

I think every generation of parents has wished and hoped for this, but wouldn't it be wonderful if the next generation is the one that truly brings peace to the world.





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Friday coffee time… 001 Tamp Coffee

This is my new regular feature, and my attempt to review every coffee shop in Chiswick.

Mind you, reviewing every coffee shop is a bit like painting the San Francisco bridge. As soon as you get to the end of the bridge it's time to start painting the beginning again.

And as soon as you review a coffee shop in Chiswick, one closes down and a new one opens!

But here we go. And let me say upfront that this is not an excuse for me to spend my Fridays sitting in coffee shops. Nope. Never. Would I do that?

Tamp Coffee, 1 Devonshire Road, Chiswick


The damage: Cappuccino (£2.80) Manchego & Serrano croissant (A foodie way of saying Ham & Cheese croissant!) (£3.50)

Wifi: Yes – password required, but works.

Plugs for low-battery: Minimal. One by the window, and a couple of tables have access to one.

Coffee rating – taste: 4/5 Slightly bitter. But does taste like proper coffee

Coffee rating – size: 3.5/5

Coffee rating – presentation: 4/5. Pretty cups with a satisfyingly round feel. A nice brown which fits the decor.

Coffee rating – crema (that lovely foamy sludge you get on top that makes a coffee a coffee): 5/5 Really generous creamy finish that holds its texture. Plus has a cute heart shape on top. Can't beat a bit of crema art!

Filled croissant tastiness: 3/5 To be honest, for £3.50 I would have wanted slightly more cheese and another slice of ham. The cheese is nicely tangy and the ham has a great flavour. But I would have liked more of both, so that the flavour came throughly more intensely through the croissant. But the ingredients are good quality, and the croissant has a good buttery texture.

Atmosphere: 5/5. For some reason Tampa coffee feels like a buzzing San Francisco coffee shop. I don't know why. Maybe because it has a mixture of window seats and small tables for solo travellers tapping away on their mac books, and a longer bench for meetings.

Music: 4/5 Upbeat but nonintrusive Spanish guitar was playing in the background when I visited. Moving to French accordion music – a favourite of mine.

Reading matter: 1/5 no papers, but an array of leaflets for local places.

Staff friendliness: 3/5 polite and professional, and bring coffee to your seat. Not exactly friendly, but not unfriendly. A joke I tried to crack fell flat. But maybe I'm just not funny. Having said that, the guy that brought me my croissant gave me a lovely smile and was jovial.

Free tap water: 4/5 Yes, there's a tap where you can help yourself and paper cups next to it.

I do my Friday coffee time visits incognito, I don't introduce myself and I pay for everything myself.


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Give an old coat – keep someone warm this winter

Want a nice warm feeling? Give someone your coat.

Drop an old coat off in Chiswick from now until 27 November, and it will keep someone warm this winter. And you get that nice warm feeling that comes from sharing a bit of Christmas spirit this winter. It's a win win situation!

Most of us have an old coat or two knocking about in the cupboard. One of the local Estate Agents, Chestertons, is collecting them for charity London Calling. They will be taken and passed on to families and individuals.


Children's, men's and women's are all wanted. I'm going to give Chiswick Boy's old ski jacket that I've been keeping as a spare. And I have a couple of jackets in my wardrobe that I don't wear and should pass on.

I asked Nikki Mention-Dennis, Associate Director of Chestertons Chiswick branch, what she'd like to say to my readers, and she said this:

“We had a wonderful response last year, and it really was great to see the generous residents in the Chiswick community get involved and help us collect winter coats for those in need during the colder months.

We are hoping to have an even better response this year, so please rummage through your wardrobes. If you have winter coats you just don't need / like/ want anymore?

Any puffa jackets that the children have outgrown, but are still in good shape? Please donate them! We have a collection box placed in our Chiswick office on the High Road. One of our friendly team would be more than happy to welcome you.”

Drop off at Chestertons, 155 Chiswick High Rd, 9am-6pm.




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Settling into winter – from flexible working to date nights

I'm writing this in Maison Blanc, nestled in the window, watching people bustling through the rain down the street.
Fridays are my day for catching up on blogging and having a bit of respite from the hamster wheel that is life-work-parenthood-blogging.
As you know if you read my blog regularly, I work a five day week in four days – otherwise known as condensed working, or compressed hours. Having Fridays 'off' (and I use the word 'off' loosely!) has really helped me to keep on track with my blogging, make some in-roads into The Novel, and have the chance to take Chiswick Boy to school and pick him up to take him to his hip hop class at the Lyric (with company Zad West).


A real pea souper

So why has it been a strange two weeks? Well for a start we've had the whole gamut of seasons. It was so sunny during the latter part of half term, then it got cold and dark. And then there was the fog – remember the fog? A real Dickensian pea souper. And now the rains have come. It almost feels like the English summer. Ha ha.

Apart from that, well as Dickens said (a lot of Dickens in this post today!), it was the best of times, it was the worst of times. That's rather melodramatic of me – I don't have any bad news to impart, just the general sadness of still trying to conceive child number two, and the bitter disappointment that comes every month it doesn't happen.

A picture speaks a thousand words or so they say. (And this isn't a Dickens quote at least). So here is the photo montage from the last two weeks.

Master of suspense

My mum came down for the last few days of half term, which is always lovely. One of our favourite things to do is to sit on the sofa and Netflix our way through Alfred Hitchcock presents – an old American show from the 50s/60s. Each episode is a mini film, filled with Hitchcockian drama, suspense and dark wit.

If you peer closely at the photo, behind the screen shot you can see a flash of red. These are our new sitting room curtains.
I've been meaning to buy curtains for the sitting room window for about 18 months now. We've had orange wafty sheer panels at the sides which I loved. And because the window doesn't look out onto the road we never really needed to cover up.
But it was a bit draughty. And a bit gloomy from time to time – looking out into the dark.
Trouble is we just couldn't decide on a pair of curtains, or even if we really needed curtains at all. And then last weekend I finally decided I'd had enough and went onto the John Lewis website and got two pairs of these lined red curtains (we have long windows).
Suddenly life seems a lot cosier. And warmer.
Just need to make a decision on all the other things in our lives now – should I resign myself to the fact that there will never be another baby? Should I buy a mac book or a nice camera? Should I buy a boat? Should I move out of London all together? Should I move job?
Not that I feel like doing anything more energetic than hunkering down for winter. Unlike Chiswick Boy, who is always ready for action.



A night of emotion

So while mum was here Chiswick Daddy had our first proper date night. And I mean ever. Yes that's right – in the almost eight years since Chiswick Boy bounced into the scene, Chiswick Daddy and I have never been for a proper night out.

We've been for the odd quick drink when mum's been down (or we've been up at hers) and Chiswick Daddy has come to see me at a couple of improv gigs, but we've never gone out, completely unhindered by time.

I'd booked us tickets to see Karl Jenkins conducting his own works at the Royal Albert Hall months ago. I love the Albert Hall as a venue. It hasn't got the best acoustics, but the view is amazing wherever you sit.

The seats are tiered so meticulously that you never have anyone's head in front of you. So even in the cheap seats (which I always get) you get a top notch view.

The concert was amazing. There were moments when the hairs really did bristle on the back of my neck – and at a couple of times the tears were flowing down my cheeks. It was very cathartic.


An Italian job

Afterwards we wandered back to South Ken looking for somewhere to eat and stumbled on this pizza place – Pierino. We sat outside, under one of those guilt-inducing but oh so lovely carbon-guzzler outside heaters.

We both had the same pizza – more or less a margarita with anchovies and capers. It was gorgeous. I had a negroni as an aperterif.

The next day the magic was only broken by my mum discovering that during the night someone had shot into my son's bedroom window with an air rifle. It had only gone through one of the sheets of double glazing – thankfully.

What are the chances that on our very first proper date night, it's the night that someone chooses to shoot through my son's bedroom window? Luckily Chiswick Boy and his grams had been too busy giggling and staying up way too late to hear anything as it happened.

I've put it down to high-jink from should-know-better-teens pre-Halloween. But what idiot shoots through something that is clearly a child's window, from the curtains? And more importantly, why is it even possible to buy this type of gun?


Baby blues

The saddest thing for me in the last two weeks is that I convinced myself that I was pregnant – and did five pregnancy tests before finally admitting that I was not pregnant. (And I'm definitely not, it transpires today.)

So back to square one. What do I do now? Do I just pursue trying the natural way? Do I try and get private IVF (and really – the cost is so prohibitive). Do I try some acupuncture, or Chinese Medicine from one of the London gurus who specialise in fertility? Or do I keep on saying silent prayers.




The circle of life


I started writing this blog post in Maison Blanc on Turnham Green Terrace, and I'm finishing it a few hours later in Crepe Affaires on Chiswick High St. (And honestly, the coffee's better here.)

Thank goodness for flexible working at the day job. Without it, I wouldn't be writing this at all.




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Kid-friendly hiphop dance – Into the Hoods – Sadlers Wells

Over half term I took my son to see Into the Hoods: Remixed. It's by the ZooNation Dance Company and co-produced by Sadler's Wells. And it's on until 14 November at the Peacock Theatre, part of Sadlers Wells.

I was really keen to see this, as this term my son started dance lessons with Zooation's West London teaching arm, Zad West.

I love going to see dance – although as you know us parents don't get out as much in evenings as we did in the times BC (Before Children). So I'm always on the look out for kid-friendly things to take my son to.


Full length narrative

What impressed me is that this is a full length narrative piece, all using hip hop dance styles.

(Disclaimer – I know there's a whole gamut of street dance styles – from nu wave to breakbeat, via body poppin' and hip hop. I make no claims to being an expert, so in this review I shamelessly use the generic term hip hop throughout!)

So it's not a mixture of short-form displays. In fact it's really akin to going to the ballet – in that the dance is there to tell a complete story.

Although unlike the ballet, the Hoods does make use of a narrator, which does help kids and adults alike keep abreast of the story line.


Kid friendly

This show is suitable for six years and up and at seven years old, Chiswick Boy was really entranced. As a parent one of my major worries in going to the theatre is that my son is going to make too much noise and irritate other audience members.

Not in a deliberately disruptive way, but he gets so excited and wrapped up in the performance that he asks me lots of questions – who's that, what are they doing now, what's this song called?

So I was really relieved when right at the beginnning, in that heart-stopping ever beguiling moment when the dry ice is streaming and the curtain has just risen, the narrator said:

“Now this is theatre. But this is hiphop theatre – so make as much noise as you like.”


Having said that, I do think that the audience was a lot more subdued than I would have liked them to be. Perhaps because we're so used to contemporary dance performances where we only cheer at the end of a scene or particularly challenging sequence.

I would have liked – and I think the production team would have too – much more clapping to the beat throughout the performance and more whoops and cheers… although the audience warmed up as the show went on.


Grimm's Fairy Tales meets London estate

Into the Hoods combines various fairytale characters and transposes them into a contemporary London housing estate setting.

Two schooldchildren become lost in the Hood (not the wood, gettit?). And there we meet a host of well known characters, hip-hopped up. This includes strong female characters, played gutsily with great facial expressions – and of course great hip hop moves!

Rap-N-Zel – whose dad doesn't want her to leave the flat on her own. A wanna be singer with a Red Cloak. Music producer Wolf. The Giant in the penthouse flat. And Jaxx, who lives in the Basement!

The puns came thick and fast, just like the dance moves. But my all time favourite character was the fairy godmother, transformed into a kick-ass, cool moving Fairy G.

What was really fantastic for my son was to see this style of dancing in a professional London theatre setting, by professional dancers. It's great to see hip hop and streetdance being portrayed as a serious narrative art form.


Chiswick Mum's verdict – in a nutshell

Best points

Definitely seeing hip hop in long form. A revelation for both me and Chiswick Boy that this style of dance can be used successfully in this way.

And that this is by a British company – so really homegrown. With London settings and characters.

Anything that could be better?

Not production wise.

My only gripe is the one that I mention a lot on my blog – and which isn't to do with this production. It's just that London theatre tickets are universally expensive.

In London generally I'd love to see more accessibly-priced options for tickets for families, in a way that doesn't jeopardise much needed funds for the theatres.

The Litumus test: Would I honestly pay to see this?

Yes. It was great for Chiswick Boy, and me. And I think this is a really unique production, so different from the usual classic and contemporary dance on offer (don't get me wrong – I love to see that dance too!)


The Info

Into the Hoods: Remixed runs until 14 November.

Peacock Theatre.


Please note – I was given 2 complimentary review tickets for the purposes of reviewing this show. The words and opinions are completely my own – you wouldn't want it any other way, and nor would I!



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Cruising on the Norwegian Escape – review

Last week I was thrilled to try my first ever trip on a cruise ship, courtesy of Mumsnet and Norwegian Cruise Line. Not just any ship – the Norwegian Escape. That happens to be the fifth largest cruise ship in the world. Ever.

Capable of carrying over 4,000 passengers, over 1,000 crew.

And me. On its inaugural one-night sailing from Southampton. Woohooooooo. (I'm no good at being a cool, calm and collected blogger!)

I could take a guest. And I'll say right now that it's always good to get away with the main man in your take time away from your everyday lives to walk hand in hand along the deck. To stare dreamy-eyed at each other over a glass of something sparkly at a bar. To cuddle up next to each other watching silly TV in the mega comfy double bed…

And my seven-year-old date did not disappoint. That's right, Chiswick Boy and I strode off together to try out life on the ocean wave. Though it's fair to say that the cruise wasn't what we were expecting.

Spoiler alert: we had a great time.


Elephant tale

In describing what it's like to be on the Norwegian Escape I'm reminded of that old tale about the emperor who wants to know what an elephant looks like, and gets six sage blind men to tell him what the elephant is like.

The six sage blind men each touch the mighty elephant, and come back with their answers.

'He is long and windy like a snake,' says the first man (who touched the trunk).

'He is hefty and mighty like a tree', says the second man (who touched one of the legs).

Well you get the idea.

The point is that after 24 hours on a cruise ship with 20 decks, 21 restaurants and more things than you can possibly fit into an overnight stay, you're only going to see a small part of the experience.

So this is just one experience, my experience. As a mum, with a seven-year-old in tow, just doing our thing. I met some lovely fellow bloggers on the cruise, so hopefully you can read some of their reviews and between us build up a picture of what the elephant, I mean ship, is really like.



I've always wanted to go on a cruise but have always found it too confusing to do anything about it.

First of all there's the dining options.Terms like complimementary dining, speciality dining, on board credit may mean something to the seasoned cruise traveller, but meant nothing to me… I always found these terms completely bamboozling. Even with the pre-cruise leaflet I couldn't get my head around it. And it wasn't until I was on board with an actual paper list of where I could go to eat without spending extra money, that I began to feel less confused.

Actually, it may make a lot more sense if you're used to all inclusive holidays, but I've never done one of those either – probably because I also find it confusing!

The other thing I'd always found confusing when leafing through cruise brochures was the pricing structure. All this inward facing, forward facing, with balcony… cruises aren't a cheap holiday. So how could I possibly know what to choose and how much to spend, and know that my family would really enjoy it?

So one thing I really wanted to get from my time on the Norwegian Escape was at least some understanding of how cruises work – where you eat, what you do, how much you have to spend on top of your main ticket.




A floating town

First of all I realised that I'd been thinking of the ship as a large floating hotel.

But this was wrong.

Because I soon realised that the ship was much more analogous to a floating resort or village than a hotel. And then that's when the dining plans clicked and make sense.

When we go to Europe we self-cater, for the sheer freedom, ease and low-fuss nature of it all. But we'll get lots of nice snacks, will splash out for cocktails (an essential for me on holiday). And at least once we'll go out for dinner somewhere nice and prolonged, staying out way past Chiswick Boy's proper bedtime, and even putting on something clean for the occassion.

So if I was on a longer trip on the Norwegian Escape, most of the time we'd eat at the included restaurants – probably self-service lunches and bigger sit down breakfasts. But occasionally we'd splash out for a meal, and that's where the speciality dining comes in.

Along with my fellow bloggers we were treated to a meal at La Cucina, the Italian restaurant. I had an absolutely gorgeous filet migneon – rare of course, which is how I always like my steaks. It was a late night for Chiswick Boy, and luckily he was able to hang out at the table with his new friend, Tiger, who was there with his mum who blogs at Little Likely Lads.

For breakfast I was really impressed by the American-style breakfast at the O'Sheehan's. This is my French toast below, served with fresh strawberries and maple syrup. Chiswick Boy tried corn beef hash – an unknown for both of us! I would certainly be happy sitting down for breakfast here every day on a cruise. And this is part of the complimentary dining! With friendly table service.


A word to the caffeine addicted like me – capuccinos, espressos and the like all count as speciality drinks on board, so be prepared to pay for your caffeine habit. But then again it's just like when go on holiday really. And I always say that a good cappuccino is a luxury worth paying for.




Water slides

Let's cut to the chase. If you're going with a young child, and if they're anything like mine, the first thing they're going to want to do is hit the water park.

Chiswick Boy had seen a video of the water flumes and slides on the top deck and he was talking about it for days in advance and over and over again on the day.

I prepared him for it being closed. Knowing that after all, this ship was designed to be sailed around the Caribbean on balmy days on a warm ocean. Not just off the coast of Southampton on an October day.

But not only was the aqua park open, but the pools were heated. Luckily, Chiswick Boy was thrilled with the kids' version of the water park, and didn't press me to go with him on the big slides.

Chiswick Boy had such a great time here, and I can just imagine how sultrily gorgeous this would be if we really were in the Caribbean, or crossing the Atlantic, under a warm sun, days of glorious nothingness ahead of us.

The only weird thing about the aqua park and swimming pools on the top deck is that there are no ostensible changing rooms. I changed Chiswick Boy in the loos, but kept my swimming costume in my bag and watched him shoot water cannons and climb up watery rope ladder tunnels instead.

When it came time to leave (with many protestations from Chiswick Boy!) I really wasn't sure how to change him. I ended up rubbing down his top half and putting his shirt and pullover back on, and leaving him in the wet trunks with a towel wrapped round him. It didn't seem right to walk back down through the glitzy decks to our room, with a dripping bedraggled and bare footed scampish boy. But I couldn't see another option.

In retrospect, I should probably have just treated it like the beach – brought a beach dress or sarong for myself to put over my costume, left my handbag in my room and just wrapped Chiswick Boy in a beach towel to go back to the room.


All that glitters

Now one thing that I do love is glitter and glitz and glamorous surroundings. A cocktail in a piano bar, a sparkly chandelier, people dressing for the evening, and the swish of warm water over relaxed toes. So even though I don't normally choose to go out for dinner every night when I'm abroad, what I do love is the glitz and glamour of a lovely spa or bar, or even hotel dining room for afternoon tea.

I actually gasped out loud when I saw the chandelier hanging above the Atrium bar, gently sparkling and changing colour.

Indeed, one of my favourite spots on the Norwegian Escape was the Haven – a spot set aside for, sob, the mega paying customers, who don't mind paying extra for a slice of something even more special. Gorgeous rooms and a private pool area. Look at these sunbeds, actually in the pool!

This my friends is how I would love to travel… just look at it. Tranquility personified.




Magical moments

Any holiday, no matter how long, is about building those magical moments that become memories and live way beyond the last suitcase has been unpacked and the toothbrushes put back on your bathroom window sill.

And on the Norwegian Escape Chiswick Boy and I really did have some beautiful spontaneous moments. My favourite thing to be on holiday is free – free to roam and to wander and to see what unfolds.

Visiting the cake shop and letting Chiswick Boy choose whatever he wanted. Setting out for pre-dinner drinks, and roaming the decks in the dusk. Having a gin and tonic, and a fizzy lemonade at the pool bar. Then watching the shore lights disappear and playing table tennis out on deck.

I've never taken Chiswick Boy away before, as in just the two of us. Well, to my mum's of course, or my brother's. But not on a trip together. And doing it on a cruise ship was a perfect way to bond, with so much room to explore and so many things to keep a seven-year-old's quick moving brain (and attention span) occupied!


A little moonlight

One of the most magical moments for me was waking up in the middle of the night and opening the balcony doors to a full-ish moon, that cast a magical light over the sea, letting me watch the swell. It was eerie and captivating and beautiful all at the same time.

This leads me to to talk about the balcony. When you flick through cruise brochures some of the prices for an insider room seem staggeringly cheap – around £500 for a cross Atlantic trip. But I like a breeze at night so the thought of a room that doesn't have access to an open outside window makes me, ironically, shiver.

So for me now, having had this night at sea, a balcony on a cruise is an absolute must. On a longer trip I know I could spend hours sat there in the sun, watching the waves, looking for dolphins and drinking coffee, reading my kindle…

The balcony is also a source of entertainment. In the morning we watched as we docked. And the previous evening we watched for the moment we set sailm Chiswick Boy so excited in anticipation of the moment we were really on the move

Imagine how amazing it would be to be on a trip where you docked at multiple places – seeing different lands come into view, and the sights and smells of a strange country every day.

I'd want to pick a trip that wasn't too frenetic, defintiely one with a few days at sea driting along, with no need to disembark and sight see. Just days spent drifting around the ship and reading.


More than the eye can see

There are so many bits of the ship that we didn't use or see. How could we on a ship this size on just one night? There's a casino, a video arcade that we never found, a spa that I would relish. And 12 – 12! – hot tubs. Do you know I love a hot tub? On a longer trip I would have taken Chiswick Boy to the most secluded one and slipped in together to watch the stars, uninterrupted.



Childcare facilities on board were impressive. We were shown around the different places, and all ages are catered for – from teenagers to babies, each with their own space.

Now my idea of going on holiday with my son is to spend time with my son, but I can definitely see how my son would have fun there, and how it would be a lovely way to sneak off for a bit of adult time at the spa, say. Or one of the comedy clubs and theatres. While my son got to play games and try out different themed activities at the evening club for a couple of hours, tops.

We also checked out the nursery. The staff there were delightful, you coudl see they were absolutely keen to get some babies in there. And again, it's a service which could give a real respite to a new mum so she can have a couple of hours at the spa, or even a nap!


Moment of truth

So here's the litmus test. Would I spend my own money on going on a cruise? Heck yes. I am now desperate to go on a longer cruise, with my partner this time, and my mum too, as well as Chiswick Boy of course.

I think it's a magical way to holiday. Watching the sea, having fun, spending quality time together. Big thanks to Mumsnet and Norwegian Cruise Line for giving me the chance to get bitten by the cruise bug!

For me one of the hidden benefits was that it was a no fly holiday. We just had to wheel our suitcase on the train from Clapham Junction to Southampton, be met by a shuttle bus to the docks.


Word to the wise – it's airport style security. So if you're heading on a cruise make sure you have all your docs, even if you're not going far off the English coast. And remember that if your child has a differen surname to you that you need signed permission from their other parent, and a copy of their passport/signature.



Disclosure: I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity. I have received a voucher as a token of thanks for this post.



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A Chiswick 5 mins with…Kim from Dream On Foundation

It's time for another 5 minutes with features: my regular insight into the fabulous and varied folk that help make Chiswick such a fun and vibrant place to live.

Today it's Kim Masters from Dream On Foundation. Read on and see why hanging out at home, Chiswick House Gardens and searching for the golden lining help make up Kim's Chiswick life.


How long have you been in Chiswick? 8 years

Favourite place to unwind here? Chiswick House Gardens or The Crown & Anchor

What's your top local tip? Get involved! The people in Chiswick are amazing, so get to know them.

And what's your hidden gem? Chiswick House Gardens. I find it such a peaceful place to get away from the bustle of life.

Vacation or Staycation? Staycation. Hanging out at home and relaxing around Chiswick.

Tell us about your business in a nutshell: We help people to find and follow their dreams, and be the best they can be. Our aim is to help people in all aspects of their life, including business, health, wealth and relationships. We are building a wonderful community, and we hold a number of events throughout the year in Chiswick. We have also just launched our new website. These all contribute to supporting people in the pursuit of their dreams, whether big or small.

Apart from this, what other hats do you wear? Wife, daughter, friend, chatter (I like to chat and connect with lots of people :-) I also run my own accounting and training business, where I help people and businesses understand their finances, and teach a course, called 'Make Peace with Money'

Is your glass half full or half empty? Some days it's half full and then other days it's half empty… When I am having a half empty day, I try to look for the golden lining in my situation and change the way I see things.

Secret Talent: Not sure I have a secret talent… I do love to connect with people:-)

Philosophy on life: Keeping growing, keep finding a way around those obstacles, and promise yourself that you will keep aiming to be the best you in every moment.

What's in your handbag? Notebook, lipstick, oatbiscuits, an umbrella, tea bags... sometimes a mug, depending on where I'm working…

Is there a favourite inspiring book that you keep on your bedside cabinet for go-to inspiration? Hah :-) Not one; I dip into a number of books when I want to learn, to be inspired, or when I am feeling low. My top book of the moment is Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford.

Best tip for finding out what your dream is: The definition of dream in the dictionary is “a cherished hope” so I suggest turning to your emotions for clues. What excites you and what do you enjoy doing? Dreams can be big, medium or tiny. Start with the small ones first.

And once you've found it, best tip for following it: TAKE ACTION, and keep taking action. When you are faced with challenges, take a deep breath, face the challenge and find a way to keep going. Build on and celebrate every little success, and before you know it, your dream will start to take form.

Best tip for cheering yourself up when the day goes pear shaped: Three things; rescue remedy, chatting things through with someone who cares about you, anda cup of tea…

Find out more about Kim at and

Twitter: @MHDreamOn

Want to be featured in my 5 min with interviews? Or know someone that should be? Drop me a line – chiswick_mum @


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