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Half-term daddy day 2

Took A to the cinema today to see ‘Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy’. Now, this is the second of the three films A’s watching this half-term, the other two being ‘Mr Peabody and Sherman’ and ‘The Lego Movie’. P took A to see Mr Peabody on Sunday, while my mum will take A to see the Lego movie tomorrow. So you’ll forgive me for feeling I’d rather drawn the short straw in the cinema trip stakes. This feeling was reinforced when I looked around the sold-out screen and saw lots of very young children, making me prepare myself for a very baby-ish experience.

However, I was pleasantly surprised at how enjoyable the Tinkerbell and the Pirate Fairy was. It didn’t try to inject any adult humour to keep the parents entertained; it just stuck to being a well told, slickly produced story to keep kids entertained and engaged for its 70-odd minute length. I wouldn’t want to see it again but it didn’t make me think I’d just wasted a couple of hours of my life.

A day at the Southbank Centre

Today I took A to see a couple of shows in the Imagine Children’s Festival at the Southbank Centre.

The first show we saw was ‘Spraoi’:

This is a simple story of two boys who arrive at the same place at the same time and don’t understand what they should do.

They do not speak the same language and they do not understand each other’s signals. One of them likes to play by the rules while the other doesn’t have any! They must learn how to communicate with each other so that they can play together.

I didn’t pay enough attention when I booked the tickets and only noticed the show was for ages 3 to 6 after A pointed it out. As it turned out, A was just that tiny bit too old for the show but she seemed to get some sort of enjoyment out of it.

The second show we saw was much more to A’s liking, being somewhat livelier and louder, with music and a good story behind it. ‘That Catherine Bennett Show’ is the story behind the creation of “an audacious alternative pop star […] who sings songs about things other than love, fame and money… things like friendship, the future and having the power to make a difference.”

It had a great message for kids as well as being entertaining. “This is a show about family activism, children’s rights and believing in your own power to change the world… even at nine. You can do anything if you put your mind to it!” One day A will notice how I’m indoctrinating her into not accepting that girls will be girls and boys will be boys but by then I hope she’ll know that I’m doing it for all the right reasons. Update: much better review of That Catherine Bennett Show at The Guardian.

In between the shows, we hung around the Southbank Centre and took in the atmosphere. There’s plenty of free and paid activities around. What with it being half-term and there being a children’s festival on, I expected there to be a lot of children but I was taken aback at just how many there were. The parked buggies alone took up a fair chunk of floor space.

Anyway, as usual, the Southbank Centre put on a great festival and, apart from the shows we saw, there was plenty of buzz around the place. It was one of those days that made me grateful for being close enough to London to make it easy enough to visit (weather-knackered rail network, notwithstanding).

Oh, the below is just one of a whole chunk of photos in a series I call ‘What happens if you let A have your phone and don’t pay attention’.

2014-02-17 16.38.19

The Universe versus Alex Woods

The one good thing about being bed-ridden is having time to read (provided you’re not so ill you can’t even do that, of course), so last night I finished reading The Universe versus Alex Woods.

I enjoyed reading it and it drew some strong emotions from me – tears as well as laughter – and I’d recommend it as a great light read.

The voice used to narrate the story is of a naive 17 year old. Naive yet wise in a way that naivety can be in simply cutting to the truth. It reminded me a lot of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, the narrator of which was someone with Asperger Syndrome. To a certain extent, I was too aware of the technique rather than being absorbed in the narration but that soon dissipated as the story progressed. The final few chapters don’t hold any great surprises in terms of plot – since the ending is sign-posted from the first chapter – but they’re still gripping and, on reflection, surprisingly deep and multi-layered. I think this is something the author, Gavin Extence, would be pleased to hear, given the heavy influence of Kurt Vonnegut on the storyline. I’m not at all familiar with Kurt Vonnegut’s work but from what I can tell from The Universe versus Alex Woods, there’s a lot of meaning that can be teased out from a seemingly simple story, and I’ll definitely be adding Kurt Vonnegut to the reading list.

For me, one of the measures of the quality of pop music is how much it makes you want to reach back into its influences, to go back to the source, and in making me want to read Kurt Vonnegut, The Universe versus Alex Woods is a great book by that measure of success.

Ugh and argh

Right now, I should be laying out and packing my running gear in preparation for tomorrow’s Brighton half marathon and my beat should be beating ever so slightly faster in anticipation.

Instead, my legs are aching – the same sort of ache I should be feeling after the run, not before it – and my head is pounding and my lungs feel like they’re running at half-capacity.

I’ve been generally healthy this past year, but there’s no way I’m getting over this in time. Bloody awful timing.