Friday, 25 May 2018

Half Term at the Royal Albert Hall

Half-term approaches, and if you're looking for something to do in London, there's a full programme of fantastic family related events at the Royal Albert Hall as part of their Festival of Science: Space! series.

Details below, and tickets can be booked direct from

My Great Orchestral Adventure
Saturday 26 May 2018, Auditorium
Aliens have arrived on planet Earth and they are not happy! The record player on their spaceship is broken and instead of bringing musical messages of intergalactic peace, it’s doing the complete opposite! We need to travel through outer space to help save the world!  Along the way we’ll make friends with aliens, waltz in zero gravity and enjoy sunrise symphonies, all without leaving the Royal Albert Hall’s magical auditorium. You decide what happens next by voting which way we should travel! We’ll be singing, dancing and best of all, a full symphony orchestra will bring our adventure to life.

A Strange New Space
Tuesday 29 May 2018, Elgar Room
A Strange New Space is Tessa Bide’s non-verbal, one-woman show aimed at children aged 4-10 years old, and follows the journey of space-obsessed Amira, who dreams of becoming an astronaut. The show melds physical theatre with stunning puppetry and original music. We travel on an imagined voyage into space, paralleled with Amira’s real-life journey as a refugee across continents, forming an unforgettable introduction to theatre for young audiences. 

Albert Einstein: Relativitively Speaking (Junior Edition)
Wednesday 30 May 2018, Elgar Room
Tangram Theatre returns to the Hall’s Elgar Room to present their family theatre show celebrating the 20th century’s most brilliant thinker as part of the Festival of Science: Space. Join Albert, the genius behind the übercoolest moustache in science, for a lecture like none you’ve ever seen.

Engsonglopedia of Science
Wednesday 30 May 2018, Elgar Room
John Hinton presents his new science-based family show in the Elgar Room as part of the Hall’s inaugural Festival of Science: Space. Ensonglopedia of Science sees Hinton present a song about science for every letter of the alphabet – expect atoms, big bangs, cells, DNA and plenty more. Expect the unexpected, and expect it to rhyme!

Albert's Band Presents: To Infinity and Beyond
Friday 1 June 2018, Elgar Room
Join the Royal Albert Hall’s resident Education & Outreach orchestra, Albert’s Band, as they take you on a musical journey to a galaxy far far away. Led by Kevin Hathway and his team of astro-musicians, this promises to be the perfect family friendly introduction to some of the most famous and recognised pieces of classical music in the universe! These concerts are part of the Royal Albert Hall’s Festival of Space.

Moomins and the Comet - Live Re-Score 
Sunday 3 June 2018, Elgar Room
This is a rare chance for Moomins fans old and new to experience Anne Wood’s TV adaptations of Film Polski’s breathtakingly charming animations, all accompanied by a live score which mixes Casios with ocarinas and the voices of vintage synthesisers with instruments from around the world.

Monday, 21 May 2018

Another Great Day at Sea Geoff Dyer

Another Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. BushAnother Great Day at Sea: Life Aboard the USS George H.W. Bush by Geoff Dyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

‘It’s striking,’ says Dyer, ‘how many of the world’s little problems - and many big ones too - are eliminated by the simplest of solutions: having women around.’ That’s certainly an interesting sub-text to the entire book, in which Dyer (as a man) goes aboard the traditionally male-only preserve of the USS George H.W. Bush, juxtaposing some typically male laddish humour (he farts, and - like rubbing a magic lamp - his escort on board appears at the door of his room like the genie of the lamp!) with the decidedly non-jock observations on the military by a civilian: a limey civilian, at that! It’s a short, entertaining read with just enough thoughtful reflection along with Dyer’s trademark inventive linguistics to make it more meal at the captain’s table than fast food from the canteen. ‘Before now I had not made the connection between things sucking and sucking things up,’ he says (p67). ‘Now it seemed obvious that something sucking was a precondition of its being sucked up.’ There’s precious little that sucks here. Far from it.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Mum issues warning after discovering daughter’s eye cancer

I had no idea it's World Retinoblastoma Awareness Week this week.

To be honest, I'm not even sure what Retinoblastoma is.

But when I was contacted about a campaign currently running by the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust together with Vision Express urging parents to ensure their children have regular eye tests, I not only learnt a lot very quickly but realised the need to share the information widely.

Retinoblastoma (Rb) is a form of cancer that affects babies and children aged under six. In a poll of more than 1,000 parents, two out of three parents weren’t aware that a squint or lazy eye can be a symptom of an aggressive eye cancer in children and only 35 per cent identified a squint as one of the signs of Rb.

Eliza Thomas was three years old when she was diagnosed with retinoblastoma in 2015 and she had her left eye removed to save her life.

Her mum took Eliza to the optician because she had a squint that seemed to be getting worse. But she admits that she didn’t expect there to be anything seriously wrong.

“We didn’t really think anything of it and assumed the worst thing that would happen was that she’d be given corrective glasses or a patch to wear over her eye. But when the optician examined her she saw what looked like a tumour growing in her eye and told us to take her to hospital immediately. As I rushed Eliza to A&E that evening all I could think about was that my little girl might have cancer.”

The worried family then visited three different hospitals before they finally received the diagnosis they feared most – Eliza had eye cancer. The doctors told April that it was too late to try other treatments such as chemo or laser therapy and that the only way to save Eliza was to remove her eye.

The operation went well and tests showed that the cancer hadn’t spread. Eliza didn’t need any further treatment, but she would need regular check-ups. A few weeks later Eliza was fitted with a temporary artificial eye, in order for here to get used to it before having a more permanent one made for her.

Three years on, Eliza is doing very well and fully embracing her ‘magic eye’. She still has to undergo regular check-ups every 6 months, where specialist eye doctors monitor her progress and her vision.


Saturday, 12 May 2018


What do you get when you cross a Scottish stand-up comedian with England’s first ever 'Doctor of Happiness?'

A new book that will have you laughing out loud whilst learning some serious science behind positive psychology, the value of inside-out thinking as well as practical tips for those in need of an energy transfusion. that's what!

Sounds like me. Sounds like a great many of us, in fact!

And if it sounds like you, too, then this book will not disappoint. Because no-one (surely?) is beyond hope.

If you want help...

  • bouncing back from criticism,
  • rethinking your (negative) thinking, 
  • creating an extra hour in the day,

Or even if you just want someone to do some worrying for you, this is the book for you.

Billed as 'the antidote to modernity' it's perfect for those of us who feel like we're endlessly turning in the hamster wheel of life - working hard, and getting nowhere fast.

The book is part practical 'self-help' and 'how to' guide, part comedy. It's a winning combination (even though the relentlessly upbeat tone, fractured sentences and pithy Pollyanna-isms can get a teeny bit tiresome... but maybe that's just jaded ol' me).

But the basic premise is a real winner: 2% of us are Mary Poppins, the rest are Mr Banks.

But we need the Mary Poppins of this world to keep it turning, to keep us smiling, to make life worth living.

So join them. Be a Mary rather than a Mr Banks.

Or in other words (word) -


Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Are you sitting comfortably?

Enjoying the weather? Wonderful, isn't it! Perfect for picnics, visits to the park, days on the beach and all manner of things that usually involve carting huge and heavy bits of kit from one place to another.

I mean, you can get away with just a beach towel or a picnic blanket.

But a deck chair is better.

And this - the TRONO® (Your Perfect Chair, Everywhere) - is better still.

I mean, this doesn't look very difficult to carry, does it?

But it looks a lot more comfortable once you get there!

And this is how you get from (a) to (b) - just to show there's no hidden extra equipment or exertion involved.

The Trono inflatable chair has been around for a while but there's a Kickstarter campaign currently running to develop and produce a children's version. Having found that children like the chair every bit as much as adults (and why not?) the Dutch company (they're based in Amsterdam) decided to develop a junior version. The campaign has just nine days left to run and although they've already exceeded their target, there's time for you to lend your support AND be the first to receive what you'll probably find to be the best summer time investment ever!

Don't just take my word for it...

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