Shock Doctor’s hinged knee support.

When I was asked to review Shock Doctor’s knee support I knew exactly who would try it out for me. In fact, I had two people in mind.

Arthur’s dad has a dodgy knee after years of skateboarding and now mountain climbing. My lovely dad, on the other hand has just started getting problems and it’s more to do general wear and tear, although he has definite cartridge damage.

When it arrived it was clear this support meant business. With two straps and dual hinged areas it was the superhero of supports we’ve used previously. It offers lateral and medial support which, in layman’s terms, means it supports all around, not just front or sides.

Jonathan who’s tall and slim found the large size a little big but said the support was in exactly the right place and with the straps didn’t slip like other supports.

The material let’s your skin breathe and, while it’s fairly bulky, it keeps your leg cool. It also has antibacterial properties which reduces nasty odours. After two days of wearing it got a definite thumbs up with ‘ the ache definitely easing and it feels safe’. The sharp pain he’d felt when exercising and climbing also reduced and he said it gave him stability.

On to dad, he wore it for longer and walked to work in it. Again he was really impressed with the hold and said it gave him immediate relief from the ache he suffers. The hinges means it moves well with your body. But at times it did feel a bit bulky for walking to work and wearing daily. To be fair, it is designed as a specific exercise support.

Overall, the Shock Doctor support got a very positive response. It offered great support, superior to others they’ve tried and, while it’s not cheap, roughly £50, both chaps said it gave instant relief and worked with them when they were moving and both will be using it again.

Pleasurewood Hills – great family fun.

If you fancy a fun family day out in East Anglia – you can’t go too wrong with Pleasurewood Hills.

It’s been part of the landscape since I was a little girl and I can still remember holding my breath while I swung high over the rides on the ski lifts. They are still there and so is the sense of fun – but there’s a lot more to enjoy nowadays.

We were lucky enough to head to ‘The Hills’ with some friends for a review last weekend and while the sun wasn’t exactly shining, it was dry and the little people were excited. We turned up on a Saturday morning after an easy drive – it sits between Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft and was easy to find by car.

I know some of my friends have not ventured there yet as they think their children might not be old enough. All I can say is that there is more than enough to keep a pack of active three-year-olds entertained. With boat rides and Moby Dick to start we were in for a great day. Arthur loved the kiddies area and the pirate ship was a huge hit, so much so that he went on three times in a row!  pleasurewood6

We also sampled the flying elephants and Arthur took to the wheel behind the racing car – he was pretty impressive for three and managed to almost steer round the track! I couldn’t resist a go on the horses so hopped on with Arthur at the reigns – to be fair the horses just make me laugh!


pleasurewood5I didn’t make the log flume this time but it’s one of my old school favourites and I know I can still recommend it. The log flume sits next door to the newly opened Marbles Madness. This was fantastic and I can confirm you do feel like a marble rolling round the rails! There are sharp lefts and rights and drops which leave you gripping the bar!

There were loads of grass and picnic areas and you really don’t feel pressured to buy lunch. We found a spot and set-up camp while the chidlren went off playing and exploring. The big yellow and red slides were very popular too.


For me, no trip is complete without a ride round the site on the train. So all aboard, we got to see all the things we didn’t have time to do and as I looked up I made a mental note to revisit those ski lifts next time.

For me the highlights were the sea lion show and the parrot show. The children all loved watching Claude and George back flip through the water, balance balls and give themselves a round of applause. I loved that they were playing music from Rocky 4 during the intro – can’t beat a crowd-rousing 80s power tune!

The parrot show was surprisingly good too. I’d never been to this before but it was a lovely way to finish our day. Come on – Who doesn’t like a cycling parrot?! Arthur loved it, especially when they flew through the hoops close to his seat.


We had a lovely day, it caters so well for all ages and we could’ve done loads more if we’d had more time. Parking is plentiful and easy and there are loads of toilets – all important things to think about when you’re bringing small children. It’s been around a long time but Pleasurewood Hills keeps getting better. So if last time you went you too were hanging precariously over the lake in a ski life – get down there again. You’ll love it and the children will a blast too.

Ravensburger educational flashcards

Last week we were sent some number and letter flashcards from Ravensburger to review.

Arthur is three-and-a-half and just starting to show an interest in letters so I was keen to try these out. My first letter flashcards are lovely quality, sturdy cards using pictures and words to help your child begin recognising letter and making connections between words and objects.

Arthur happily spent about half an hour going through the cards with me. We made up a game where I showed him the image and we had to shout out the word and see who was first. Then I turned it over to show him the word and slowly spelt it out for him.

 I was surprised how long he concentrated for and with 35 cards in a pack there were plenty to choose from.ravenswords

The number flash cards are great as Arthur is only just recognising numbers properly but he is really enjoying counting on his hands so I used this as an chance to explore his counting. We picked a card and together counted it out on his fingers. Again the cards were great quality, easy to use and I liked the simplicity of it. PLus the fact you can tailor it to your own child.


We created little games that suited us and it worked. They are educational but they can beravensnumber used in a fun way so Arthur never felt pressurised or like he was having to learn something. The nu,ber ones in particular will also last a long time as you can progress to simple sums when ready.  I will definitely be using them again to help build his confidence with words and numbers.

Parrot lady and the tale of the supermarket patrol man

Since reproducing I have discovered a new talent for invention.

The kind of invention of which Walter Mitty would be proud. It strikes at moments of desperation when Arthur is either picking up something throwing something, or, I’ll be honest, not listening to a bloody word I’ve said.

Remember the policemen on the end of your mum’s phone when you were a kid. The one who threatened to appear at any moment should you choose not to wear socks/eat peas/ stop holding your brother’s ear and trying to hang him up.

Well my ‘policeman’ has become an out of control series of characters. He’s a crazed park warden, he’s Mr Toothpaste. Good god, I even invented a parrot lady’ who patrolled the parrot show we visited today. I’m helpless in the face of it.
I can’t resist the ease with which it stops Arthur in his tracks. I suspect there is some deep seated psychological reason I shouldn’t be doing this and he’ll either end up joining the army at 16 or borstal. Either that or he’ll have ambitions to be ‘ parrot man’ and I’ll have to let him down gently.

But we’re a family. Me, the policeman, park warden, parrot lady, supermarket patrol guard and even the pavement police ( they are different to the usual ones of course). I can’t let them go and I fear my obsessive little family will only grow.
Let’s face it there’s only a finite amount of time I can get away with this – I’m guessing about the same time Santa is revealed for the fraud he is.

So Arthur, I’m sorry if parrot lady scared you but she did stop you running full throttle down some steep stairs and the park warden means you thought twice about throwing those stones.

Yes perhaps I should be using other methods but quite frankly I’m a little attached and who knows, this time next year I might have added a few more characters…there’s a children’s book in there somewhere.

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Free school dinners for all – what a tragic waste of money

Apparently the new legislation to give all reception, year one and two children a free school lunch will save parents around £2.30 a day. That’s not to be sniffed at – I can use it for weekend treats, days out, or, if I was being sensible put it in his savings account.

Of course I won’t – I won’t really notice it because my son, when he goes to school next year won’t need free school dinners. I’m not rich, far from it, but we do ok and because of that we don’t get benefits. So in my view we shouldn’t get free school meals.

Not because of the Daily Mail mentality of not wanting to be seen as scumbag benefit families clogging up our system. I don’t subscribe to that. But because I know there are children and families who really need it. That I live in a society where we all contribute to the greater good – maybe a simplistic view, it maybe idealistic but it’s the essence of the welfare state.

That if I fall down on my luck, the welfare system will give me breathing space and time to sort myself out.

As well as this £2.30 a day it will cost £150m to get schools  ready and make the necessary changes to their kitchens. Dear god, how many lives could be transfromed with that cash. I object to the policy for reasons of common sense. If parents can’t afford new school uniform or the cost of a school trip precludes some children from going then this hair brain, crowd-pleasing scheme that excludes on the basis of age is heart-breakingly misplaced.

I can choose what to give my son for lunch. I can buy a weekly shop without the fear of paying for it, (unless it’s Waitrose and massive!). I am not rich but I am not in need so for god’s sake use the money where it’s needed. Give parents who need it peace of mind and the rest of us the respect to know we’ll feed our children well enough to get through the school day.

The bedroom tax has hit a minority but had huge impacts, today millions of people, including working families use food banks. This needs addressing. Target welfare, don’t blanket bomb it. The concept and, in turn argument of universalism is useless in this case when we’re choosing to ignore pockets of real need.

Let’s not lose track of the true meaning of a welfare state – it is not for universal benefits. It’s simple, use the money for people who need it, whose lives are difficult, miserable and financially unstable. Don’t placate the DM readers by giving middle class benefits when this money could change lives not just save us a few bob during the week.

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The National Trust 50 Things challenge


We’ve been taking on huge 50 Things to do before you’re 11 3/4 challenge from The National Trust. What a wonderful way to explore the world for little or no money!

So far we’ve made dens, played grass trumpets, and as you can see, picked and eaten fruit straight from trees. We’ve got loads more to do but I think we’re enjoying it as much as Arthur!

BeWILDerwood, Boggles and amazing mazes!

We never get bored of BeWILDerwood.

A magical adventure playground of epic proportions tucked away in the North Norfolk countryside – it’s the very best place to let your children’s imaginations run wild.


a href=””>Creator, Tom Blofeld, in the Sky Maze. Creator, Tom Blofeld, in the Sky Maze.

This time we went when the new Sky Maze had opened and what a wonderful addition! Set high in the treetops, this massive and hugely impressive wooden design reaches over 8 metres high and weaves through the natural landscape. It’s a puzzle in a puzzle and Arthur and his daddy spent ages getting lost and found and discovering new ways of getting across the walkways and canopies.

We went in August, during the height of the summer holidays and despite there being plenty of cars it still managed to never feel full or over crowded, such is the lay out of this wonderful place.

We had the wonderful boat trip from the entrance in one of the lovely coloured boats and met Mildred the Croc, who spurts water at unsuspecting, or in our case suspecting and excited, guests.

Arthur and his friend Isabel loved the story telling and we listened to all three. The staff, all quite young, do an amazing job of bringing the children into this magical world, with dancing and costumes and instruments. This time we all took part in Pippy’s Peculiar Costume Cavalcade – What a fab idea! We all marched around the new path which weaves up neat the Sy Maze, and met the Parasquawk.

Just a glorious day filled with stories, imagination, fun and crazy creatures – who doesn’t want to peer through the trees and fing a Twiggle house?!

It’s not just somewhere for summer either. Some of my best BeWILDerwood adventures have been at Halloween and their wonderful bonfire themes fun. Just go, take the children and let the magic take over!

The whole world in a gym

I’ve just been to the gym. A fairly inoccuous way to spend a morning one would think.

The wearing of trainers, a touch of lycra and the obligatory water bottle I found lurking in my bag from…well possibly too long ago. So, off I went, full of hope and on a mission to sweat myself into shape. What I soon realised when I stepped into the gym is that it is a mirocosm housed within glass. A social commentary of life as we know it – with a few bar bells and unfathomable machines of torture thrown in.

I plugged my headphones in – more than a little excited I could watch Eastenders while trotting along. But soon it becaome clear this was the place to watch mother nature in action. To my left a group of eager boys tight with muscles and enthusiam were like bees to honey around a young woman desperately trying to lift weights.

Her vocal workout was, to be fair, as strong as her lifting technique with yelps, breathless cries and deep breathing all serving to build a frenzied moment, relieved only by the elderly lady struggling on the nearby treadmill. She was here with her husband – I think it was her husband. Gripping their little workout sheets to avoid going ‘off piste’. I had totally forgotten to fetch my sheet from the appropriate drawer which meant I randomly mounted pieces of equipment in the hope it would do what Hannah, the lovely instructor, had planned for me to do.

The hardcore peacocks were in the corner willing each other to lift heavier and heavier weights while their blood vessels pulsated in protestation. Eventually someone lifted something close to the holy grail and there were grunts and claps and I felt a wave of testosterone hit me straight between the eyes.

In my corner were those less inclined to grunt and more inclined to hide away in baggy clothes, cycling in silence. Or like me, trotting along on a treadmill all to aware of my bum writhing up and down in the mirror. One lady had some kind of canvas combat trousers on and a hoodie. Maybe she was hoping the excess clothing would help with weight loss – either way she looked in pain but she and we, all knew those extra clothes weren’t coming off.

All in all it was a little stroll (with some light inclined cycling) through life’s gym goers. Those of us desperate to be invisible and those desperate to be seen. We all came together in one glorious mash up of gym ettiquette. I quite enjoyed it – I’m going again soon and who knows, I might even grunt a little.

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Andrew Barton Ultimate Blondes

The last couple of weeks I’ve been testing out the new Andrew Barton Ultimate Blonde brightening and rehydrating shampoo and conditioner for blondes.

Asda has been stocking the Andrew Barton range for a while and I’ve always been a fan so I was just a little chuffed when they bought out a range for blondes – especially as my roots could do with a little brightening!

Packed with camomile and Arjan oil the shampoo smells delicious and natural and is a bargain with a 400ml bottle coming in at just £3.90. The conditioner is equally as delicious and feels light weight. My hair feels soft and like it’s had an injection of moisture which is perfect during the summer months and the colour is definitely brighter.

It doesn’t take much shampoo to get a good lather which means the bottle will last a good while and as I blow dried my hair I kept getting waves of a delicious summer smell – it was my hair!

A lovely set of products which give you quality without the price tag.

Lollibop, the perfect festival for small people.

Lollibop, Lollibop oooh, Lollilollibop…

Sometimes only a song will do and this weekend at the fab Lollibop Festival, this is exactly what we were singing as we left, tired, and very very happy.

I’ve been to Lollibop before and had a great time but last year I know there were a few niggles about it becoming over- commercial. I suspect these fears for everyone were allayed this year. In it’s new home, Hatfield House, the festival had a relaxed and happy vibe from the moment we arrived. The grounds are huge and the set up means you could wander easily around and take in the atmosphere.

We drove and parking was easy and plentiful, there were loos as soon as we arrived and for me, that’s always a good sign! There are loads all through the festival with easy changing stations and drinking water too – just making a day out with small people so much easier.


There were queues for the Lollipalladium so we wandered around and enjoyed all the other stuff first. Fantastic impromptu magic shows, the fantastic Titan the robot and face painting galore!

Arthur absolutely loved the street dancing classes and we spent ages getting our groove on, the dancers was fab with the children and we spent a good hour in there. We wandered around the Harry Potter Wizard School and planted magic beans and made wands.

Arthur was chuffed with his Beano magazine and, along with his little friend, spent ages in the lego tent. We also caught Michella Strachen reading from her book and she kept us entertained for ages, a really great story-teller and Lollibooks was a wonderful addition this year.


It worked for everyone, from Charlie at just a couple of months old, through to his mummy and me who find it hard to resist a comedy dress-up moment! loll5


To be honest there was so much to see and do we didn’t manage to get back to watch any of the shows but our day didn’t suffer for it. We did watch some of the acts on the main stage and Arthur loved Lazy Town and Mr Maker and it was so easy – you could watch easily from way back and there were huge screens for extra effect.


A brilliant festival vibe with little people at it’s heart. I can’t wait for next year but there’s still time to pop along tomorrow – it’s absolutely worth it.