Thursday, February 19, 2015

Our FA Cup Adventure

And so it starts again. Getting ready for the match, nerves building, pre-match rituals established, planning the day and match ahead. Only this time it’s different, this time it’s her first time, her first match. She’s been looking forward to this day for weeks, maybe even since she first kicked a ball in anger and today it’s finally arrived. Today’s the day she finally gets to see my, and now her, beloved Arsenal.

And she’s got a great first match to go and see, not some dreary mid-table clash against Bolton Wanderers like my first game. Nope she gets to see Arsenal v Middlesbrough in the 5th round of the FA Cup and it’s all thanks to the FA’s new scheme calling fans to celebrate the adventure of the competition. They are encouraging fans to share photos of their own FA Cup adventure on Twitter using the hashtag #FACupAdventure and who was I to say no when they asked if Kaede and I would join in.

I don’t want to put words in her mouth about how she felt that day, I’m not sure from an adult point of view I could do it justice, so I’ll let her tell you in her own words about her own FA Cup adventure. I can tell you from a Dads point of view that this is the second time I’ve taken one of my kids to their first match and it truly is a special moment. I said to Kaede just before we walked in “OK, this is your last chance to back out. Once you walk into that stadium you are an Arsenal fan, a football fan, for life. It will take over your life and give you more downs than ups, but that’s all part it. So are we going in or not?’

She practically run in.

And here in her words (and photos) is her take on the day.

It all started when my Dad received an email about going to see the Arsenal v Middlesbrough match for the FA Cup 5th round. It would be my first Arsenal match! I was filled with joy.

I counted down the days until it was time for the football! I got ready, had lunch and before I know it I was on my way to Arsenal Stadium. The journey on the bus was long but the journey on the train was short. Maybe because I knew I was getting closer?

When we got off the train we went down the pub for a drink. Thank God I was an Arsenal fan because all the pubs said “HOME FANS ONLY”. After one pub we went to another pub closer to the stadium. I could smell beer and onions. There were stalls selling Arsenal scarves everywhere. I could hear the noisy Middlesbrough fans chanting their songs down the street. Most of them had swears.

After all the noise we headed to the stadium. We bought two match day programmes, one for me and one for Nate when we got home. When we were in the stadium I felt like screaming with joy. We had to go up quite a few stairs but we eventually found our seats.

Soon the match begun. We were heading off to a good start. After a while Giroud scored a goal, I was overwhelmed! A few minutes later Giroud scored another fantastic goal. 2-0. I was so excited! I couldn’t believe it.

Soon it was half time and we went to get some crisps. After that I went back to my seat. The second half had begun. I swear I was so into the game that I didn’t even blink. After a while the match was over. We had won 2-0. I was so happy.

It was the best day of my life. Soon I was heading home, barely speaking. I knew this was definitely a FA Cup adventure.

Like I said, there was no way I could sum it up better than she could. It truly was a great day (the win helped) and seeing it again through the eyes of a child really did bring back the excitement of the FA Cup.

Many thanks to Jen at the FA for the free tickets, we really did have a FA Cup Adventure. If you want to join in the adventure and possibly win yourself tickets, head on over to for more details.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

How the Grinch nearly stole Christmas

Every Who
Down in Who-ville
Liked Christmas a lot...

But the Grinch,
Who lived just North of Who-ville,
Did NOT!

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be that his head wasn't screwed on quite right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

Whatever the reason,
His heart or his shoes,
He stood there on Christmas Eve, hating the Whos,
Staring down from his cave with a sour, Grinchy frown
At the warm lighted windows below in their town.
For he knew every Who down in Who-ville beneath
Was busy now, hanging a mistleoe wreath.

"And they're hanging their stockings!" he snarled with a sneer.
"Tomorrow is Christmas! It's practically here!"
Then he growled, with his grinch fingers nervously drumming,
"I MUST find a way to keep Christmas from coming!"

The first Who was Jamie,
Not a bad kind of lad,
He gave him some back pain, the worst ever had.
Either sitting, or standing, they both would cause pain,
Only laying on the floor would make this Who normal again.
He grinned and he bared it, he sat through the show,
Popping pill after pill, wishing the back pain to go

He then spotted Tricia,
The Mum of the bunch.
Let’s try out some Kidney stones, that’ll give her a hunch.
But that wasn’t enough, let’s dish out more back pain,
That made her shout “Ouch” again and again…and again.
He then saw her eyes, such the prettiest green,
And covered one over with an infected sheen.

Not satisfied with this mischief,
His eyes wandered afar,
Where he stumbled upon the Chief Clumsy Czar.
She was living in Plymouth, her first name was Storm,
And without a shadow of doubt, the clumsiest Who ever born.
The ice cream, the hot plate, the coffee pot steam,
An accident waiting to happen, she always had been.
Climbing stairs is so easy, walking down not so much,
A 5am crazy stumble and her gift was a crutch.

That left Kaede and Nate,
The Who’s youngest two,
He plotted and planned to make their lives feel like poo.
He threw Lego and jigsaws, sore throats and trapped wind,
But the more he threw at them, the more that they grinned.
They were used to this family, like a duck takes to water,
So they easily avoided the Grinch’s Christmas slaughter.

The Grinch got frustrated,
His ears filled with steam.
No matter what mischief he caused, not one frown could he gleam.
The others took heart from the youngest two’s laughter,
And became determined to have their own happy ever after
With every new mishap, they laughed and they laughed,
And a Happy but painful Christmas they managed to craft.

So on the happiest of notes,
We finish our tale,
About how the worst things can happen, so many things to assail.
But if surrounded by family, you manage to grin,
Then you can turn the Grinch’s losses into a win.
You can joke at the tumbles, you can grin through the pain,
But whatever you do, don’t let Storm dish up ice cream again.

Thanks to Dr Suess for the start.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Believe It or Not

Like everyone else, I get a lot of emails every day. Some good, most bad. Some interesting, most spam. Then you get those ones that seem too good to be true, mostly from Nigerian bankers that want to deposit $400,000 into your account for reasons unclear to nobody. However on this occasion I got one of the good ones - would I like to come and visit Hamley’s before it opened, then lunch at Planet Hollywood followed by a guided tour around Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Would I ever.

So last Sunday found myself and my son Nate off on our mini boys adventure whilst we left the girls to explore Westfield and try on shoes, or do their nails, or do whatever it is that girls do to pass the time in those places.

We were undeterred by the torrential rain that greeted us at Oxford Circus station and failing to spot an empty taxi-canoe, waded down the River Regent Street to Hamley’s. For those that haven’t been, Hamley’s is one huge almighty toy shop, spread over seven floors and filled with every toy imaginable (and some you’ve never imagined). It’s a place of wonder at the best of times and we were getting a guided tour when the place was completely empty. A bunch of over-excited kids, left to roam free playing with the toys, albeit with the occasional glance at our own children to make sure they were behaving.

 Nate having a ball

Our tour finished just as they were about to open the doors to the public and I’m just glad I had a huge big bear to hide behind as it was pandemonium once those doors opened.

From there it was off to Planet Hollywood and a spot of lunch. It’s a great place for any film buff to eat as it is wall-to-wall film memorabilia and I reckon you could visit every week and still stumble across some un-seen titbit from favourite film you haven’t seen in ages. It’s one of those places where you don’t mind waiting for your food (not that we had to) as you spend the whole time looking around trying to name the films.

Han Solo in carbonite

After that it was off to the main event – Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Ripley’s plays host to over 700 jaw-dropping exhibits, galleries and interactive experiences across 6 floors and it was now showing off its latest exhibit – a Swarovski crystal covered Mini Cooper worth over £500,000. The crystals are in 50 shades to represent the 50 states of America and it apparently took over 6 months to put together. It was quite a sight to behold but, boys being boys, we wanted to get straight in and see all the freaky stuff – the shrunken heads, the world’s fattest person and an asteroid from Mars – blokes stuff.

There really was something for everyone here. Crazy art including a portrait of Kate Middleton made from lipstick kisses, Brad Pitt made form Cigarette ash and Amy Winehouse made from broken CD’s. Historical busts of infamous people from the past – the worlds ugliest woman and the man with longest ever nose were some of the funnier ones. Even as you walk between the exhibits the walls are covered with strange facts that will raise either a smile or an eyebrow.

They make a lovely couple

I could spent the whole day listing the incredible things you will see in there, but to be honest I don’t want to spoil it for any of you that are thinking of going, and I thoroughly recommend that you do. I also think I may need to visit again as I probably only saw half of it. I will say though, that two of Nate’s favourite parts were the mirror maze (which he insisted we go through twice) and the LaseRace game where you have to get through a darkened room all burglar style with laser alarms everywhere.

From the tallest head to the shrunken head

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! is open 365 days a year from 10am until midnight and at £79.95 for a family ticket (two adults and 2 kids) is quite a bargain, especially for something right smack in the middle of London. If you book online in advance ( ) you get 15% off, so a bit of planning can save you a few bob towards your lunch.

But if you want to save yourself even more money a snag yourself a FREE family ticket*, all you have to do is the following:

Leave a comment below fessing up to your own ‘Believe It or Not’ moment. Anything from “Believe it or not I accidentally reversed over the Mother in Law’s foot”, or “Believe it or not I hold the world record for long distance marshmallow blowing from a nostril’. Anything you’re brave enough to admit is good enough for me.

The winner will be whichever one that I and my distinguished panel of judges (aka my grotty kids) find the most amazing/funny. Oh and here’s a little tip, my kids love funny. Oh and retweets and sharing on Facebook would also go down well with the judges (though not a requirement). The judge's decision is final and the winner will be announced on 2nd September 2014.

I’d like to thank Naomi Finn and her team at Ripley’s for a most excellent day out and will point out, for the sake of clarity, that it was a free event.

*The family ticket will be for 2 x adults and 2 x kids OR 1 x adult 3 x kids, whichever you prefer and is valid for 1 year. This is for the London site only.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Pitch your #First

Last week I was invited by Vodafone to attend the launch of their #First campaign. In layman’s terms they want to throw a shed load of money at someone to create their ‘first’ something, something life-changing, something that keeps the world interesting. In celebration of this we were to watch a short film about how they flew a young football team from Ghana, a team that hadn’t even played on grass before,  to the UK to compete in their first international football tournament.

When they told me that the screening was going to take place at the Emirates Stadium, home of my beloved Arsenal, I figured I would have to bring my daughter Kaede along for her first visit to the stadium. It was probably a bad move to tell her about the trip a full two weeks before it actually happened, as by the time the day actually arrived she was beside herself with excitement. 

The look on her face when she first walked into the stadium and took it all in was beyond joy. She had entered her new church and it was obvious that this would be a place she would worship for the rest of her life. I felt a pang of guilt for inflicting this football madness on her, but reconciled myself with the fact that if I hadn’t done it then her Mum, a Tottenham fan, would of and that would be a fate worse than…well worse than anything I could imagine.

The film itself was very poignant and very funny (especially the tour of London film) and I would recommend everyone to go and give the film a watch here and the London tour here.

I would also very much recommend that you get yourselves over to the website and make your pitch for your very own #First. And despite the fact that I never win competitions, I’m going to enter myself. After all, there’s a first time for everything.

Thanks to Vodafone for the invite and to Leah and Mel at Tribal Media for the invite, although Kaede thanks you more.