I am a married stay at home father with two young daughters. I write and make videos about parenting, fatherhood, lifestyle, food, travel and mototring etc. Gestation and Lactation; the only two things men can't do as parents.
Following half-term, I hoped this week would be reasonably quiet and that the family would return to its usual routine. This turned out to be a massively naive wish as I instead found myself receiving a crash course in emergency dental treatment.
This week was supposed to be a little more relaxed. Instead I’ve had a crash course is seeking emergency dental treatment.
If you can picture the scene, it was a manic Tuesday morning. I was in our bedroom, just putting the final touches to my day’s outfit.
Helen and Izzy had been instructed to get shoes and coats on in readiness for the school run. Needless to say, they weren’t following my instructions. They were playing noisily in the hallway instead of getting ready.
The game took a sudden shift when they both started wailing. It sounded like a part of the game to me but then Helen appeared in the doorway of our bedroom, tears streaming down her face.
I could see the problem clearly before she even spoke. Helen has four adult teeth and she’s incredibly proud of each of them. Stood in the doorway, wailing with her mouth wide open, I could only see three and a half of them.
Inbetween sobs she said: “Izzy sat on my head and broke my adult tooth.”
She couldn’t have chipped a more prominent tooth. It was an incisor on the upper row, bang in the middle of her mouth.
I say chipped, that’s an understatement. Half of that tooth was somewhere, but it wasn’t in her mouth.
Yes, okay, in the greater scheme of things, this was a minor injury. I was, nonetheless, horrified. She was nine years old and had a badly damaged adult tooth. I gave her a hug, checked for any blood or other injuries and went into crisis mode.
Only thing is, it was 8.20am. No dental surgery would be open. I knew some accident and emergency departments could handle emergency dental work but the only one I could think of was in Central London.
Flesh wounds, bruises, cuts, sprains: I’d know how to handle all these minor injuries. I’d never handled a dental emergency before and I was flummoxed.
Well strictly speaking that’s not true. We held a summer barbecue a few years ago and one guest fell over while leaving and injured a couple of teeth but she was an adult and not my daughter. This was in a different league.
As I say, it was a relatively minor incident. Even so, an incisor is such a prominent tooth I worried about the impact this could have on my child. With a piece of tooth missing, Helen had developed an instant lisp. What else could it mean?
Just in case she had any bright ideas, I rang Mrs Adams at work. We briefly discussed the situation and decided the best course of action was to get her to a dentist at the earliest opportunity and take it from there. We also decided that if private dental treatment provided better options, we’d consider it (even though we had no idea where the money would come from).
Rather amusingly, this became a communal crisis. Mrs Adams’ boss heard her on the phone to me. She Gogglewhacked what to do in such a situation and the details were swiftly emailed to me.
On my second attempt, I got through to our dental surgery. We were given an emergency appointment for 10.30am.
A period of relative calm now descended on the house. Helen had stopped crying and told me that she didn’t blame her sister because it had all been an accident. The girl’s hugged and Izzy said sorry, although the poor kid was clearly very upset at having accidentally injured her big sister.
We’ve never got to the bottom of exactly what happened. It seems that Helen had been crawling around on the floor at Izzy’s feet and Izzy had ended up tumbling on top of her sister. I suspect Izzy thought she was being funny or tried to give her big sister a bear hug. Whatever the precise circumstances, it all went a bit wrong and Helen’s tooth was the big looser.
In all the excitement, I hadn’t even thought to go looking for the missing part of the tooth. Thankfully Helen knew where it was and we put it in a container of milk, an action that can help preserve damaged teeth.
There was no point taking Helen to school but for Izzy, there were no excuses. We embarked on the school run and I dropped Izzy off a few minutes later than usual.
Soon afterwards, Helen and I were at the dentist’s surgery. My panicked phone call earlier that morning had clearly made an impression because the receptionist seemed to know exactly who I was and was equally concerned for me as she was Helen.
At bang-on 10.30am we were ushered into the examination room. Helen and I relayed the story, handed over the container with the tooth and I told the dentist we wanted to know about all options, NHS and private.
The dentist examined the broken tooth and the chipped piece. Despite the size of the crack, Helen had luckily only damaged the dentine.
If she had cracked her tooth any closer to the gum, the nerve would have been exposed and it would have been bye-bye tooth. The dentist came to the conclusion the best option was to bond the two back together and with incredible skill, this is exactly what she did. The private options would have been no better.
Helen has only ever had dental check-ups. This was the first time she’d had hardcore treatment involving X-rays, drills and so on. I could tell the kid was tense and so I snuck up and crouched next to the chair so I could hold her hand while the dentist carried out the repair.
A magnificent repair it is too. You can’t see the crack or the repair at all.
The NHS may come in for criticism, but Helen’s tooth was chipped at 8.20am. By 1pm she was sat in our kitchen with a repaired tooth having tomato soup for lunch. You simply can’t criticise that level of treatment.
I’m also very grateful for the wonderful dentists my girls have seen over the years. As you can see from this old blog post, they were introduced to dentistry in the most relaxed way and so while Helen didn’t particularly enjoy the treatment, she wasn’t nervous about getting into the dentist’s chair.
Of course, it’s not quite so straightforward. Once the repair was completed and Helen was rinsing out her mouth, I asked the dentist what this might mean for Helen’s future.
Very diplomatically, she said the repair “should last a good few years.”
I was also advised Helen will need to be careful while eating hard foods. Apple, the dentist advised, should be cut up for her in future.
We’ll have to see how Helen gets along, but I’m resigning myself to the fact we may be getting her a dental implant once all her adult teeth are in place. If it were any other tooth, I don’t think the thought would even cross my mind, but an incisor is such a prominent, important tooth you need something that can bite and tear. I can’t help feeling the first unpitted olive Helen bites into could result in another trip to the dentist.
Dealing with a dental emergency was another parenting first. I am hoping it’s a one off.
As for my quiet week, no such luck! The rest of the week has been spent catching up following Tuesday’s events. I am, however, exceedingly grateful for the treatment Helen received.
Have you experienced a dental emergency with your children? If not, would you have known what to do? Out of interest, would you have considered private as well as NHS treatment? I’m curious to know how you’d have reacted so please do leave a comment below.
When it comes to buying Mother’s Day cards, you can go to one of the established high-street retailers and they’ll see you all right. Alternatively, you could choose something from Love Layla Designs. This small, family-run business based in West Yorkshire will provide you with something that will really stand out.
A couple of Mother’s Day cards from the Love Layla Designs range.
I first became aware of Love Layla Designs on the run-up to Valentine’s Day. I was sent a few sample cards and I found its highly irreverent, funny and cheeky style very appealing.
I posted a pic or two of the tamer cards on my Instagram feed and the response proved to me that Love Layla has quite a fan club. The next big occasion is Mother’s Day on Sunday, 11 March and Love Layla asked me to take-a-look at its entire range, which takes in far more than simply cards.
This is a really nice touch: A Mother’s Day card for a single parent.
The cards cost £3.75 each and come with a very good quality envelope. They’ve all blank on the inside and you can chose cards that come with a small bag of glitter that you can sprinkle into the card if you wish to give the recipient a glittery surprise!
The messages on the front, well, you have a huge choice. There are some quite standard greetings such including the perennial Happy Mother’s Day. The greetings do, however, get very mischevious and may reference bits of the human anatomy being baggy or feature words that I simply can’t feature on my blog.
What I liked, however, is that some of the cards are designed specifically for gifting to single mums. Some are also designed to be given to aunts and grandmothers (aunts and grandmothers are often mums too).
As I said, Love Layla Designs is about more than simply cards. New to its product offering is wrapping paper. I was very amused by its ‘From Your Favourite Child’ paper that is has brought out just in time for Mother’s Day for £4.25 a A1-sized sheet.
Love Layla Designs wrapping paper. It introduced a ‘From Your Favourite Child’ paper for Mother’s Day.
The wine labels are simply superb. For £2.50 you can get a label to stick on the front of a bottle. The item pictured below has been produced specially for Mother’s Day. In typical Love Layla style, the non-Mother’s Day labels are quite racy and as for it’s range of balloons, well, don’t bother looking if four letter words offend you!
A wine label for Mother’s Day. The rest in the range are great fun, but aren’t quite so tame!
You may be wondering about delivery costs. After all, why would you pay to have a wine label or card delivered when you could just buy one the next time you’re in town? Have no fear, there is free delivery on all orders and you can pay using Paypal or credit and debit card.
Also in the Love Layla Designs range are calenders, like the one pictured here, balloons and badges.
The items I’ve looked at have all been very well produced. The paper and card are all of a good thickness. Whether you are buying for Mother’s Day or another occasion, Love Layla Designs stand out.
They certainly make a statement. With free delivery, I would certainly buy from this small family firm in future.
Disclosure: this commissioned post was produced in association with Love Layla Designs
In preparation for our house move, I have just cleared out a cupboard that’s situated under the stairs. While doing so, I was reunited with an old friend. Not a human friend, but an old Diaper Dude changing bag that used to travel with me everywhere when Izzy was in nappies.
Just what exactly did I find in this long-forgotten changing bag? you might be surprised!
That bag had sat in the cupboard unused for, what, two and-a-half years, maybe longer? I simply had to open it up and see what, if anything, was lurking inside.
Although largely empty, there were a few items inside the bag. The few items that were in there, they alarmed and amused me in equal measure.
I know that a voyeuristic blog post has massive appeal to most people. So here you go, for your entertainment, here’s what I found.
An unposted letter to Thames valley Police
This was an utterly bizarre find and alarmed me. A lot. The letter was addressed to the Fixed Penalty Support Unit of Thames Valley Police. Why was I writing to these guys, why had it never been posted and was there a warrant out for my arrest?
The letter was almost three years old. It would appear I had been caught speeding but I have absolutely no recollection of this and can’t explain why the letter was languishing in that changing bag.
I have just renewed my driving licence and the entire process took just a few days. Nothing was flagged so I can only assume I dealt with this some other way. At least I hope I did. My licence is clean so I really cannot explain this at all!
Izzy checks out the old cop of the Times magazine that she and I appeared in.
Yes, Heidi Klum was in the changing bag. Okay, not really, but a copy of the Times magazine supplement dated 5 May, 2015 was in the bag and Heidi Klum was on the cover.
It was only when I looked closer that I realised the significance of this edition of the supplement. You see a certain dad blogger by the name of John Adams and his daughter Izzy made an appearance in this edition of the supplement. Okay, so I was relegated to page 29 while Klum made the cover but still, I remember it being a fun article to contribute to.
It was significant for anther reason. When I travelled up to London for the photoshoot, Izzy came with me. It was the first time I had taken her out of the house for a significant period of time without wearing a nappy and thankfully, she stayed dry all day. It’s quite possible the changing bag came with me, just in case it was needed.
Rather like the letter to Thames valley Police, I can’t explain why it was in the bag. I can only assume someone had asked to see the article and I never took the magazine out again.
An old style £5 note
Izzy inspects the old £5 note I found in the changing bag.
Do you get nostalgic for paper bank notes? In this bag was an old-style paper £5 note. It was badly scrunched up and unloved.
This find made we wonder what cash is hidden elsewhere in our house? It’d be great if I could unearth a long-forgotten stash of notes somewhere else.
Some old Frube wrappers and a cup cake case wrapped up in cling film
Okay my friends, we’re now getting into classic changing bag territory. No changing bag is complete without some form of old, discarded food wrappers stuffed deep into a little used pocket. My Diaper Dude was no different.
The only worrying thing is the age of these food wrappers. They’d been there for years and the entire lot smelled rather sweet, a bit like honeysuckle. I dread to think what pathogens have quietly developed among this bundle over the years.
Some dried flowers
This bought a smile to my face. My daughters have a habit of bringing me flowers whenever we go out somewhere. Often they’ll pick some dandelions or daisies. Back in the days when I used a changing bag, I would place the flowers in the bag with the intention of putting them in water when we got home.
I can only assume we’d been out somewhere and Helen and Izzy had picked a few flowers and given them to me. The great thing is, they’d dried and been perfectly preserved.
And the rest….
There was an old drawing, a pen, packets of raisins and an old pen lid. All of these items are classic changing bag detritus.
The bag, however, brought back bitter-sweet memories. Izzy is no longer a nappy-wearing baby or toddler. Those early years are gone.
The days of needing to travel everywhere with a changing bag and baby’s bottle are past. She has grown up to be a wonderful school girl with the most amazing personality.
While essentially obsolete, the future of that changing bag is secure. I’m adding it to a number of items from the kids’ past that I simply can’t throw away, items that hold sentimental value: Favourite cuddly toys, blankets, drawings, that kind of thing. I know it’s possibly a bit daft to get attached to a changing bag but it brings back cherished memories.
I am now going to hand this blog post over to you. Do you have a box of cherished items you simply can’t get rid of? Have you ever stumbled across an old changing bag and taken a good look inside? If you have, I’d be very curious to know what you found. Oh, unless you work for the Road Traffic division of Thames valley Police, in which case I’d politely ask you move along.
With my youngest daughter having recently started school, I faced the conundrum of whether to find a job I could fit around school hours. Deciding this wasn’t viable, I decided to concentrate on freelancing and blogging and I fit this around family life.
Look! A man speaking at the Mums Enterprise Roadshow in 2017! Dads are encouraged to attend.
This isn’t an option for everyone and so I was very interested to receive a media release promoting two events organised by the Mums Enterprise Roadshow, one in Manchester in June and a second in London in September. I confess the name made me feel uncomfortable, although I’ll address that in just a moment.
Now in its fourth year, these are free events primarily aimed at mums and dads looking to get back to work after time spent out of the workforce, although they are open to anyone in a similar position. The events are split into five zones:
Retrain and upskill, for anyone needing to learn new skills or improve skills learned several years ago
Fleixble work zone, where you can meet employers and recruitment consultants looking to hire people on flexible terms
Opportunity zone, where those looking to start a franchise or similar can seek out opportunities in this field
Business zone, where advice and support will be available for anyone looking to set up their own business
Boost zone, designed for those who are keen to get back to work, but need some inspiration.
Exhibitors include: the Parentpreneur Accelerator, an online course provider that helps budding business people get their enterprise off the ground, VACT, which helps people set up a virtual assistant business and ACAS, for anyone experiencing issues in the workplace.
Full details can be found online at the Mums Enterprise Roadshow website, but the events take place on Wednesday, 20 June at Event City in Manchester and Friday 28 and Saturday 29 September in London at Olympia. In the meantime, you may also want to keep an eye on social media for the #shootforthemoon hashtag.
That’s a bit about the event itself. Hopefully mums and dads who wish to work will be inspired to go along.
So what of the name? That media release I received stated the roadshow is a “child-friendly flexible work and business show, founded and organised by mums, and aimed at helping attendees get into the right frame of mind for change.”
It made repeated reference to mums, but no mention of dads. I can’t deny it, this made me feel uncomfortable, especially as I was recently “getting into the right frame of mind for change” and considering a return to the workforce myself.
Dads face various challenges if they actively want to give up work to concentrate on looking after their children and run the family home. A lack of realistically-paid paternity leave and a shared parental leave system that’s weighted in favour of mums are two challenges that guys face in the early days of fatherhood. A third, less obvious challenge, is a lack of training, upskilling and encouragement to return to the workforce once a man’s kids are back at school.
I know of organisations that provide workplace training and skills development for women in this position. The catch: They use the Equalities Act to deny their services to men.
This creates a paradox. If we want more equality in the workplace, we need to encourage men to be more active on the domestic front. Men simply aren’t going to do it if they can’t access services that will enable them to retrain or update skills after they’ve spent several years at home with their offspring.
I’m afraid that media release brought out my mischievous side. I emailed the organisers pointing out my concerns and asking whether stay at home fathers would be welcome to attend the roadshows.
The response was swift. “The event is 100% open to men…..lots of dads come along…..we have lots of male exhibitors.” A Skype call was arranged between the event’s founder, Lindsey Fish and I.
It transpires Lindsey had given some thought to changing the event’s name, but with the core market being mums, decided the name should stay. Nonetheless, there was a genuine desire to make clear that mums and dads are welcome both to attend and exhibit.
In fact, the event is open to more than mums and dads. As Lindsey said:
“The Mums Enterprise Roadshow was founded by myself and Lucy Chaplin, we are two mums on a mission. The event’s content is curated with the work and business challenges of mums in mind. But we totally understand that these challenges, fears and questions can be very relevant to others in all kinds of circumstances too.
“The event is a free to attend, child and baby friendly show and men, dads, women without children, grandma’s and grandads, people in all circumstances, gender’s and ages are truly welcome if they feel the content, workshops and exhibitors can be of help them. We are shooting for the moon and taking thousands with us. That invite is open to anybody who wishes to join us.”
Whatever your position, If you’re inspired to go along, I hope you do and find it inspiring. It didn’t escape my attention the timing of the events is ideal for anyone who has kids starting school this year. Who knows, I may go along myself.
I present to you here a view from the Coca-Cola London Eye. Broadly speaking, this is a view looking east and what you can see directly in the foreground is construction work going on in the South Bank area of the city.
A black and view of London as seen from the London Eye, broadly speaking look East. I was astounded at the amount of construction work taking place.
I think you’ll agree it makes for an interesting comparison with this very colourful picture which I took a few weeks ago of the same area at nighttime. It was fascinating being so high. it provided a totally different perspective and you could see just how much building work is taking place in the area.
I’d taken Helen and Izzy to London for the day. We’d specifically wanted to go to the Coca-Cola London Eye during half-term. As we were in the line to board, it started raining heavily.
This was a bit disappointing as I’d been hoping to get some good photographs while we we so high above London. Thankfully the weather cleared up, but the skies remained very grey and the pod was streaked with rain water, which didn’t help when taking pictures.
This was one of the better photographs I took but the skies were so grey I felt the picture worked a lot better when I flipped it to black and white! You can see some of London’s signature landmarks.
To the right of the picture you can see No 1 Canada Square in Canary Wharf. To the left of that is the Shard while further to the left is the Walkie Talkie and the Leadenhall Building. Personally speaking, my eyes are drawn to the cranes and also the soft, swirling patterns in the clouds.
I will be writing a more detailed review of our trip in a few weeks time as part of my role as a Merlin Annual Pass ambassador. In the mean time, you can read about the other Merlin-operated attractions we’ve visited by reading this post about our trip to Madame Tussauds or this one about our trip to Shrek’s Adventure.
I will be adding this post to the weekly #MySundayPhoto linky hosted by the Photalife blog. It’s well worth visiting if you enjoy photography.
“When you have your own bedrooms,” said Mrs Adams to our daughters Helen and Izzy, “things are going to change.”
This is frequently my response when I walk into my kids’ bedroom.
This brief exchange took place a couple of days ago while Mrs Adams was overseeing bedtime. On this particular evening, Helen and Izzy’s bedroom was spectacularly untidy.
They’re kids, they’re supposed to be untidy. Unfortunately for our daughters, Mrs Adams and I have become ultra-sensitive to untidiness since we put our house on the market and a constant stream of potential buyers has passed through the property.
Helen and Izzy’s bedroom is the one room that constantly needs attention. With the house sale now underway, we’re constantly battling untidiness in their room and we’ve realised the cause of the issue. Having the kids share a bedroom and sleep in bunk beds no longer works.
Izzy is forever coming home with house points for tidying up at school. She has developed a love of emptying the dishwasher. When she tidies up, she does it properly. Her older sister, meanwhile, well, her approach isn’t quite so thorough.
On the other hand, Helen loves to read and likes to read at night once she’s in bed. We’ve experimented with various lights so that she can read without disturbing her sister but nothing really works and this has led to the occasional disagreement between the two sisters.
Added to this, Helen and Izzy have been asking for different bedtimes, which is understandable considering the three year age gap between them. In a further demonstration of the age gap and differing developmental stages, their book shelf is an unruly mess of simple picture books for Izzy who is just getting to grips with reading and complex novels and science books for Helen, whose reading skills are much more advanced.
Despite my best attempts to cull the number of soft toys in the house, they seem to be growing again. Stuffed into the one bedroom, we have a cupboard that looks like a display case in Hamley’s toy store. If the toys were split across two bedrooms, it might look a bit more acceptable.
Part of the logic for moving house was to get the kids separate bedrooms. We knew Helen and Izzy couldn’t share a bedroom forever and that this was becoming an issue. Having to deal with it on a daily basis while we sell our house, however, has brought home the reality this was a bigger issue than we realised.
Until two years ago the two girls had separate bedrooms. Helen had a massive double room to her self and Mrs Adams and I felt this was a bit excessive. As I needed an office, we thought it made sense for the girls to move into the one room.
It made sense at the time, but life doesn’t stand still. It’s not working out any more and in the back of my mind I’m thinking of Helen, who will start experiencing puberty in the not too distant future. She’ll be wanting privacy before too long and understandably so.
I know that we’re exceptionally fortunate to be able to consider this. Thinking back to my own childhood, I shared a bedroom with my grandmother until I was eight-years-old. I only got my own room when my mother remarried and we moved house.
All these years later and I find myself the main carer for my two daughters. I’m thinking we’ll have a tidier house and that bedtime will be easier. It’ll hopefully make it easier for Helen and Izzy to do schoolwork undisturbed and develop and nurture their own interests.
Of course it could go the other way. We may have two untidy bedrooms to deal with instead of one. Watch this space, I’ll let you know how we get on.
Can you relate to this? How old were your children when you put them in separate bedrooms? At what age do you think children should sleep in separate rooms? Please feel free to comment below as this is uncharted territory for us and Mrs Adams and I could do with hearing more about other people’s experiences.
When I was a young boy, about nine years of age, my mother and I spent a day in London visiting the sights. Among the places we visited was Madame Tussauds. I’ve been meaning to return ever since but just never quite got around to it.
The famous Madame Tussauds building in London. Having last visited when I was a boy, I returned with Helen and we had an amazing time.
What I recall from that visit were lots and lots of very impressive wax works. My memories may be incorrect, but I don’t think you were allowed anywhere near the exhibits. You could look, but not touch.
That ‘look but can’t touch’ policy has been consigned to history. To be honest, you can see why.
How on Earth are you going to prevent the smart-phone generation from posing with Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, Michael Jackson, Lady Gaga, Patrick Stewart and, erm, Boris Johnson? It would be impossible to police. Everyone wants to put their photos on Instagram (speaking of which, you’ll find more pictures of our visit on my Instagram feed).
Once inside, your first port of call is a room with various A-listers from the world of entertainment. You’ll find yourself mingling with the Beckhams, Angelina Jolie, Johnny Depp and a host of stars from Bollywood.
No matter what I did, I simply couldn’t get Victoria Beckham to look at the camera.
Needless to say, this room was a bit on the busy side and so I tried to persuade Helen we should move on. Eventually my protestations were successful and we made our way to the next exhibit, posing with the likes of Steven Speilberg and Alfred Hitchcock before passing by the Royal Family and finding ourselves in a room Helen was very keen to visit: The YouTube room.
I was hoping we might see a model of DanTDM or Zoe London and people of this ilk. Alas, the only models in the room at this point in time are Zoella and Alfie Deyes who were sat on a bed, as you often see them in their videos.
Hanging out on a bed with Zoella and boyfriend Alfie. This felt slightly odd.
I couldn’t resist posing on the bed with them. Although they were only models, posing on a bed with Zalfie seemed just a bit too intimate. Moving swiftly on. . .
There was a Star Wars section where Helen was delighted to come face to face with Princess Leia and Jabba the Hut, not to mention Rey. A visit to Madam Tussauds isn’t, however, simply about the wax works.
Helen was over the moon to come face to face with Rey.
Where the London Planetarium was once displayed, there is now an awesome 4D cinema experience based on various Marvel characters. As a rule, I’m not a fan of 4D, I generally find it a bit of a gimmick, but the visuals and audio on this occasion were simply stunning. Both Helen and I were totally immersed in the experience as the Incredible Hulk, Captain America and various other characters did battle against a huge metal monstrosity trying to break into Buckingham Palace and then Madame Tussauds itself.
The highlight for Helen was the Sherlock Holmes experience. Madame Tussauds is based very close to where Sherlock Holmes would have lived on London’s Baker Street so it’s fitting that the experience has a home here. Various guides take you on a tour through some of less appealing parts of Victorian and Edwardian London and you solve some simple clues along the way.
There was another experience in the music section based on the Voice. Participants could pose in the three famous chairs and have their picture taken as they listened to to performances and hit the famed red button, all while Will-i-am looked on.
Will-i-am keeps a watchful eye on participant[pants taking part in The Voice Experience.Before summing up, I should say that I was visiting in my role as a Merlin Annual Pass Ambassador. Madame Tussauds is one of Merlin’s attractions and my family’s Annual Passes meant we didn’t pay anything further for our visit.
We will be visiting various Merlin attractions during 2018.
If you are thinking of visiting Madame Tussauds, I would take a look at all the ticketing options, including a Merlin Annual Pass. One-off children’s tickets start at £24 and adult tickets £29 or you can buy a family ticket for £130.
In comparison, a VIP Merlin Annual Pass can be bought for £625 giving your family unlimited access to all Merlin’s attractions across the world. As you can see, there are savings to be made and I suspect we’ll be revisiting Madame Tussauds later in the year.
I think Madame Tussauds was absolutely ideal for someone of Helen’s age. She’s coming on for nine years of age and she found the whole thing fascinating. She knows enough about film to appreciate the Hollywood section and likes music so she enjoyed that section also, plus she was curious about Teresa May’s wax work.
I think my youngest daughter, Izzy, might have been a bit non-plussed by it. At five year’s old she’s possibly a touch too young, although she thoroughly enjoyed our recent visit to Shrek’s Advenutre.
Madame Tussauds definitely got our seal of approval. It’s a great attraction for adults and kids alike.
Disclosure: This commissioned post was produced in association with Merlin Annual Pass. Thoughts and opinions entirely my own.
I was minding my own business early yesterday morning, my head full of ideas to entertain my kids on the first day of the half-term break from school. I then spotted a news story on the BBC website. Had I been eating cornflakes at the time I’d have spat them out over my computer monitor in surprise. The news story, you see, was about the Government going on a charm offensive to encourage more men to take shared parental leave.
Want to encourage more men to take shared parental leave? Well ring-fence some of the leave, and provide it to them on a ‘use it or lose it’ basis.
I maybe shouldn’t have been so surprised. The Government committed itself to reviewing shared parental leave in 2018 some time ago. With Brexit hitting the buffers once again and Universal Credit making the headlines for all the wrong reasons, I simply thought the Government had quietly dropped this pledge.
Not only has the Depart for Business reviewed it, but the official line is that men should ‘share the joy’ with their partner and take up their right to the leave. The hashtag #sharethejoy is even doing the rounds on social media.
This is far more than I expected at this point in time, although it does beg the question as to why men are having to be encouraged to exercise their right to take shared parental leave. Keep that question in mind. I’ll come back to it.
Let me take my foot off the accelerator for a moment. It may be that you aren’t entirely familiar with shared parental leave. The system is complex and many people, including many employers, still have little knowledge of the policy.
If you want the full detail, read this post from my blog’s archive. In brief, however, the old maternity and paternity leave systems were done away with in 2015. In its place, mums and dads receive 50 weeks of leave following the birth of a child. This can be shared between them in any way they see fit. As an example, they could both take six months off work at the same time. Alternatively, dad could take two months off work and mum 10 months and so on and so forth. There are limits to the pay you receive, rules to follow and exceptions, but the gory detail is in the blog post I have highlighted.
So why exactly are Government Ministers hitting the media and telling dads to take time off work to hold the babies? The Government thinks just 2% of eligible men are taking shared parental leave, although I’ve heard a slightly rosier story from other sources suggesting the figure is closer to 8%.
There are many, many reasons for this but I’ll highlight two:
1) Entrenched gender roles in British workplaces and
2) The way shared parental leave was introduced.
To this day, the accepted wisdom is that mum will take an extended period of leave from work following the birth of a child. Dad may take a couple of weeks, maybe a month, but that’s his lot.
Some men, I’d like to think a relatively small number, don’t consider it their job to be around in the early days of their offspring’s life. Many other men are desperately worried as to how employers will react if they take months off work to be with their newborn. After years of fighting for paid maternity leave, some women are understandably reluctant to share what they consider to be their leave.
Added in to this mix, some employers offer women enhanced maternity pay but don’t offer any such payments to men. Shared parental leave is a great idea, but what we introduced in the UK wasn’t really shared parental leave. What we actually introduced was a system of transferable maternity leave. Although this may not have been the intnetion, mum is still very muich in control of the leave and she can effectively decide whether dad gets any leave and employers frequently make it difficult for dads to take the time off.
I said I’d come back to what changes need to be made to the shared parental leave system. There are many issues that could and should be addressed but I’d argue the biggest barrier is the lack of ring-fenced leave reserved solely for dad’s use. Around three months of that shared parental leave needs to be ring-fenced solely for a child’s father. If he doesn’t take his ring-fenced leave, he should lose it.
As a rule, I dislike positive discrimination. Unfortunately, gender roles in the workplace are so entrenched I think this is the only option. It would force employers to accept that men would take shared parental leave and dads would no longer have to worry about what their employer might think about spending time with their newborn. Those dads who didn’t think it was their job to be around their newborn would need to buck-up their ideas (in fact they’d probably find it an incredibly rewarding experience).
Norway, Sweden and Iceland introduced shared parental leave long before the UK. Each one of these nations found it necessary to introduce periods of ring-fenced leave for dad to make the system work properly. In a shrewd and sensible step to ensure the system was fair, some leave was also ring-fenced solely for mothers (I thoroughly recommend reading Rebecca Asher’s book Man Up which covers this and other issues about masculinity and fatherhood in great detail).
When ring-fenced leave was introduced for dads, male participation increased hugely. Various claims have been made about the positive impact this subsequently had on gender equality in the home and workplace.
The importance of shared parental leave should not be understated. As this study from the Father Institute shows, if a child has an involved father, their behaviour in school is often better, their educational outcomes are improved, they have better mental health and lower rates of criminality in later life. Men who are involved in their kids’ life from day one tend to stay involved, even if the parents split-up.
Some have called shared parental leave in the UK a failure. It isn’t a failure, but it does need to be improved. I hate to use a cliché, but Rome wasn’t built in a day. It took the Swedish 40 years to get shared parental leave working properly. It was only introduced in the UK in 2015 so we possibly have a way to go and should be learning from those countries that introduced it first.
Men should be more confident about taking shared parental leave. Likewise, however, we need to introduce a period of ring-fenced leave for guys. British working culture needs to change and sadly I think it’s going to take legislation to make it happen. This is such an important, socially progressive policy. It could have a hugely positive impact on society and family life and deserves our support.
The South London suburb of Croydon and I have a bit of history. Once upon a long-time-go I lived and worked in the centre of the borough and to this day I don’t live a billion miles away. It was quite fitting, therefore, when I was set a challenge to return and go window shopping for Valentine’s Day gifts at Croydon’s Centrale and Whitgift Centre.
As you can see from the expression on my face, Valentine’s Day gift shopping is a serious business.
The challenge was as follows. I was to visit various stores and try to find a range of low, medium and high-budget gifts for him and her. I have interpreted low as anything up to £20, medium £20 to £100 and anything above £100 as high.
I am familiar with Centrale & Whitgift having been shopping there many a time. Usually, however, I’m looking for clothes, so this was indeed quite a challenge to undertake.
I’ve outlined my suggestions below. The most important suggestion I’d make, however, is to be quick. Valentine’s Day is two days away so if you haven’t got your loved one a gift yet, I recommend you get a move on!
House of Fraser
Some of the Skagen watches for sale at House of Fraser.
This is Centrale’s flagship store. I was still living in Central Croydon when House of Fraser opened up and it was considered a massive coup for a higher-end store like this to open up in The Cronx (as locals refer to Croydon).
This was my first visit to House of Fraser in ages and I thought I’d be recommending designer clothes and entertainment systems. While I’d recommend going here for big budget items, I’d suggest looking at its range of designer accessories instead of clothes and electrical items.
For a female partner, I’d look at handbags and clutch bags. I spotted a few DKNY bags at around £240 that looked good although the store also has a Michael Korrs concession that has a comprehensive range.
For the guys, take a look at the watches. House of Fraser has a great range but the classically-styled Skagen watches that cost around the £155 mark.
Thinking of popping the question? Well Ernest Jones may be able to help with a ring, although it has many other more affordable items.
You would imagine that, being a jeweller, Ernest Jones would have gifts at the more expensive end of the spectrum. Sure, if you’re looking to pop the question on Valentine’s Day you could splash out £3,999 on one of its diamond rings. That would be an impressive gift.
A quick look around the store, however, revealed Ted Baker cufflinks for £35. Alternatively, you could buy the one you love a really good refillable Cross pen for £105 (one of my favourites as it happens, I love Cross pens). As you can see, there’s something for everyone in most budget ranges.
A small selection of the cards available at Clintons, although the store has everything you could need to set the scene at home for Valentine’s Day.
I am so glad I was asked to pay a visit to Clintons. No, you will not find substantial, large gifts at Clintons. You will, however, find everything you need to set the scene at home for Valentine’s Day. You’ll find decoraions, scented candles, sequined cushions and so on.
Needless to say, Clintons also has a vast array of cards. You buy a standards sized card and have change for £2 or you can make a statement with one of its large cards costing £10. Personally, however, I’d be recommending the Thornton’s chocolates that you can buy for £5 a box.
I generally find Debenhams’ clothes range to be very good, featuring designers such as Jasper Conran and John Rocha. For Valentine’s Day, however, I was more concerned with its scents and make-up.
Almost as soon as I walked in the door, I came face to face with a superb array or Lacote scents for men that I am familiar with, all of them in the mid-price range. On display were 100ml bottles of Lacoste Black, Blue and Yellow for between £29 and £35.
For a similar price you could buy 100ml bottles of Lacoste’s Natural, Magnetic and Sparkling perfurmes. If perfume isn’t quite right, I noticed some Clinique gift sets for £55.
The Fragrance Shop
No surprises for guessing what you can buy from the Fragrance Shop. For him, you will get change out of £45 if you go for a scent like Ralph Lauren Polo Red, Paco Rabanne Pure XS or Emporio Armani Stronger with You. Likewise, if buying for your female partner, you will get a bottle of Jean Paul Gaultier Scandal for £55, £46 will get you Lancôme La Vie Est Belle or if you wish to splash out, you could go for Yves Saint Laurent Black Opium for £68.
Don’t, however, fret if your budget isn’t that big. I saw a number of shower gift sets starting at around £15.
Marks and Spencer
This eye catching display of Valentine’s Day gifts caught my eye at Marks and Spencer.
I walked into Marks and Spencer to find myself presented with an amazing display of Cava and chocolates in the food hall. Cava was available for between £6 and £8.50 while the chocolates started at £5. Who knew decadence could be so cost-effective?
In a rather amusing twist, the food hall leads straight on to the lingerie section. I was pushed for time so only had a quick look, but if you’re feeling brave and wish to go out of your way to buy your other half some impressive underwear, you’ll need to budget for £30 minimum (that’s a starting point, I’d suggest spending considerably more).
I’ve always been a fan of the Body Shop’s men’s range. It has a few gift sets for guys, the one that stood out for me was the Bathrom Kit costing £10.
For the women there is a vast array of Valentine’s Day gift sets starting at £6. For £20, however, you can get gift sets containing shower gels, soaps and scrubs etc. The British Rose, Shea and Coconut sets all caught my eye.
The Perfume Shop
Another option for scent lovers. In the window were Vera Wang scents for £24.99 and Jimmy Choo’s Blossom for £36 a bottle. For guys, Dior’s Sauvage should do the trick. All are well worth considering and very competitively priced.
A further option for anyone looking for jewellery. While it does have a range of rings if you are serious about popping the question, Lyons specialsies in watches. If money is no object, you could go for one of the Breitling time pieces for around £4,000.
The Longines range of ladies watches looked superb, although prices were generally north of £1,000. That may be a bit much for a Valentine’s Day gift so do not fret, the store was selling Hugo Boss timepieces for £350.
As the name suggests, this is where to go for accessories. You won’t, however, find anything for men in the store. Purses and wallets stood out for me, and these would set you back around £15.
Scarves, handbags jewellery are all part of Accessorize’s offering. Best of all, they won’t break the bank so this tore is ideal if you need to watch the pennies.
Information about Centrale and Whitgift
The Centrale & Whitgift Centre: Where more happens!
If you are needing to buy a Valentine’s Day gift, you’ll find the Whitgift Centre open from 9am until 7pm and Centrale 10am until 7pm (Monday – Wednesday). The two centres can be found on either side of North End, Croydon’s main pedestrianised shopping street.
They are well served by trains to East Croydon station and the Croydon Tramlink plus several bus routes. Numerous car parking options are also available. More information can be found online at the centres’ website.
Enjoy Valentine’s Day
I hope these suggestions have inspired you. Whatever you do on Valentine’s Day, I hope you have you and your loved one have a marvelous time. If you do buy them a gift, I hope it is well received.
Disclosure: This commissioned post was produced in association with Centrale and Whitgift.
For a few brief hours this week, the sun was high in the sky. I charged out with my Lensball to try taking some photographs while the light was decent and snapped this image. I can’t help thinking it looks a little like I have the world in my hand.
Holding the world in my hand. Okay, not quite, but it’s a nice effect, nonetheless.
In truth it’s not the ‘world’ but a small part of it. It’s a tiny part of the Surrey Hills with the sun in the background.
My aim was to take an image that made the horizon a continuous line. I partially achieved my aim, although my hand isn’t in quite the correct position.
I’ve increased the vibrance of the image to give the sky in the Lensball that marvellous blue colour. It also bought out those rainbow colours to the right of the Lensball.
I have to say, I am looking forward to the arrival of spring and summer. The past few weeks of winter have been so grey and haven’t provided the best conditions for photography. I’m longing for the plants to bloom and the sun to shine so I can take some photographs in the countryside with real colour in them.
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