Category Archives: Dad Diaries

Dad Diaries: Matt Rowntree goes to the launch of Beano.com

Beano re-enters the digital era with a big bang

cajoled dad_Profile PicMatt writes: For the last couple of years number one son has been a very happy subscriber to the Beano. Saturday mornings are punctuated with excited runs to the door any minute he thinks the postman might be delivering his favourite comic.

And over the last six months the younger one has also got into one of my childhood’s favourite pastimes. So it was with great pleasure we received an invitation to the launch of Beano’s re-entry into the digital world for the launch of beano.com.

img_0267 One recent Sunday we made the trip over to London for a mischievous launch party that included gunge tanks, catapults and all sorts of other mayhem.

A fun-filled afternoon was had by all. An experience not to forget as we entered through a window into Dennis’s disgustingly filthy room, and made our way into a factory made for menaces and minxes.

The kids had an amazing time as the parents did their best to keep themselves out of trouble and clean. A tricky task as sponge cake flew from catapults and gunge was filtered through various drains towards the next victims.

Number one had actually been visiting beano.com in the weeks previous to the launch, confirming what he thought to be ‘so beano’ and ‘not beano’, giving his approval on content for the new site.

img_8337 Building on its much-loved comic roots, Beano’s new digital “Ultimate Feed of Awesome” is jam-packed with original videos, along with the best bits of YouTube, games, pics, quizzes and interactive fun to help imaginations run riot and keep kids giggling for hours.

img_0261

The new site launches with lots of videos, including brand new cartoons like The Invention of Football (by dinosaurs…), brand new “how to” vids for making cool stuff, and silly jokes delivered by the “Little Squelchies”, all sitting along with great entertainment from  Dennis, Gnasher, Minnie and the whole gang.

And the great news for parents is that beano.com is designed to protect kids – there’s no messaging functionality, no collection of personal information without parental say so, and no sharing of marketing data with 3rd parties.

Oh. And it’s free, so maybe I’ll do away with that subscription. Actually no. It gives us a good 45 minutes of peace and quiet on a Saturday morning. Perhaps the new website will extend that a little longer.

Read Matt’s column ‘A Cajoled Dad’ in Slick Mummy magazine or follow him on twitter @mattrowntree

Dad Diaries: Matt Rowntree goes barmy for The Larmer Tree Festival

cajoled dad_Profile PicMatt writes: I’ll be honest… I’m not a big festival fan. I love my music, as testified by the 3,000+ pieces of vinyl clogging up space around the house (much to the annoyance of my better half), but standing in the rain and muddy fields to listen to it live; or trying to find a comfortable sleeping position whilst tied up in sleeping bags at night, is not my idea of fun.

That said, I live on the doorstep of Glastonbury and have friends with a very accommodating caravan, so have enjoyed a ‘posh’ (or at least slightly more civilised) version of that little festival for the last few years. But it’s a strictly Mum and Dad festival – no kids.

As a result my attitude to festivals has gradually changed over the years. And coming home raving to the kids about who and what we’ve seen somehow inspires their desires to join us. Which won’t happen. So perhaps more importantly, the wife has been looking for a festival to take the kids to for the last couple of years.

There have been various options: Camp Bestival and Beautiful Days for starters. However, due to some good timing and equally good fortune we found our opportunity earlier this summer – take a bow Larmer Tree Festival.

This little festival, with a limit of 4,000 revellers a day and homed in the beautiful Larmer Tree Gardens in the heart of Cranbourne Chase, Wiltshire, is one of our best finds in recent years.

Given my aversion to camping we opted for ‘comfy camping’ which included a huge bell tent, air beds and duvets, champagne crates for bedside tables and a lot of fairy lights. It also provided hot showers, a private chill-out tent and a pamper tent with plugs-a-plenty for recharging everything, as well as vanity mirrors and hair-dryers!

When four young lads descended on the car and carried our bags to our tent, we knew we were on to a winner. Although when my six year-old asked if maids came to tidy up in the evening I wondered whether we might have pushed the boat out a little too far!

And unlike Glastonbury, which takes us about an hour to get from caravan to music, the campsites at Larmer Tree Festival are never more than ten minutes away from the action.

And what action it is.

A combination of kids entertainment, in the form of arts and crafts, den-building and kids discos and much more, run throughout the day. There’s your usual stalls selling everything from tie-died t-shirts to incredible art and hand-made crafts. Then there’s the Lostwood with poetry recitals and a recreated lounge with sofas, armchairs and book-cases. In the middle of a wood. With disco balls hanging from trees.

And if we’d found the Retreat a little earlier in our weekend the adults among us might have treated each other to some time off for an Indian Head Massage or some Reiki.

I haven’t even touched on the music yet; a combination of world music and a headline act each evening. This year’s options included The Stranglers (you forget how many classics they had), Tom Odell, Jamie Cullum and Caro Emerald. All of which we listened to over the trees as we sat outside our tent enjoying a glass of vino with the kids sleeping behind us. But the entertainment went into the early hours of each morning with DJs and other stuff if you had the energy (and a babysitter).

As with most festivals the food on offer was brilliant, and better value than I’ve seen at many events in recent times. Indeed, sitting on the top deck of a double-decker bus to eat a bowl of variety pack Frosties in scorching heat seemed to be the highlight of the weekend for our youngest. But we enjoyed everything from freshly barbecued corn on the cob, to crab and lobster, jacket potatoes, a variety of curries and pizza. We did not go hungry. And none of it broke the bank.

I can’t go without mentioning the loos too. It took me two days to come to terms with the fact that I did not need my stash of screwed up loo roll with me whenever nature called for one of us. They were like nothing I’ve ever witnessed at events before – clean to the point of sparkling, fully stocked with toilet paper and hand sanitiser. And locks that worked. Every. Single. One. They certainly made an impression!

IMG_6770But perhaps the single biggest take-away from the weekend was simply the people that were there. Most people we spoke to had been coming for years. Some had been coming annually with their kids and were now coming with their kids and their kids – three generations at one festival, all together. Others we spoke to had been coming since their kids were babies and this year was the first year they were legally allowed to drink. Then there were young couples enjoying a weekend away, and the new crop of young parents with their new-borns. It was wonderful to meet and talk to all these people and more.

As you can tell, Larmer Tree Festival gets a lot of repeat custom. I’ll be hanging on the phone as soon as tickets are available for the next one in the hope that we can create that sort of tradition with our family.

Read Matt’s ‘Cajoled Dad’ column in Slick Mummy magazine or follow him online @mattrowntree

With thanks to The Larmer Tree Festival and Flint PR.

Stroller Days Out: Little Birdies at Roof East

If you’re an Eastender you might have ventured to Roof East last Summer for a skyline cinema experience. This year the venue (which is situated on top of a car park) is also offering crazy golf – which on weekend afternoons is an option for little putters too…

One of our Dad-writers investigates…

“Growing up in Scotland right next to a famous golf course, trotting ’round the green was all the rage for us kids. Obviously for my own boys (living in earshot of Bow bells) the sport isn’t even on their radar (except as an explanation for why Grandpa sometimes wears silly trousers). So I was quite chuffed at the fact that there is a crazy golf not ten minutes drive from me (right by Stratford station if you take the train/bus/tube/DLR) – a good intro into a gentleman’s sport, I thought…

I took my kids (four and two) after they had already been for a swim on a WP_20160626_12_59_46_Pro Sunday morning – totally forgot any sort of healthy snack or drink but Roof East has an amazing selection of hot dogs, fries, nachos etc – all loaded with American style cheese sauce (not an Organix bar or fruit kebab in sight, but you’ll be Dad of the year if you proffer the cheesy chips!) The kids thought driving all the way up to the top floor was awesome (in a sort of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang way) and were also pretty smitten with the cheery security chap on the door, who had more enthusiasm than I did of a Sunday…

The course itself is nine holes, a mix of ‘trick shot’ ones (like a loop the loop) and tricky angles – but all very manageable even for a two year old (with a bit of patience). My eldest son got a bit tired and grumpy (we had to have a little chat about sportsmanship…) but soon perked up again when he saw the impressive sportscars with trees and plants growing in them (no, really, there are!)

WP_20160626_13_01_57_ProTotally would recommend this – especially if you’re looking for a Dad-date playdate idea (or you want to bet a fellow parent that you can show them a car that’s been made into a shrubbery…)

If you’re heading to Roof East with kids I’d suggest: 

  • Pack sunscreen (it is very exposed, so even when cloudy there’s a lot of sun)
  • Take cash (for cheesy chips etc)
  • Don’t wear a hat that will blow off (or it will blow off the top of a multi-storey carpark)
  • Have a little chat about flora and fauna being our friends (there are lots of well nurtured bits of urban horticulture right at child level…)
  • Don’t expect a serious game of golf… “

Dad Diaries: in praise of the simple things

We were recently invited to the launch of SWAG Jewellers ‘Circle of Life’ collection; jewellery designed to be given to mothers to commemorate a birth. One of our Dad writers gave his thoughts on the concept of ‘push presents’ below…

“When our first child was born, my wife was covered in blood. She had mascara running down her face and had been intermittently laughing like a drain from the drugs she’d been given, then pausing to vomit on herself. She’d had a couple of stitches and was also attached to a drip. She’d kill me for saying this – it wasn’t her best look – but to me she had never seemed more beautiful, nor had I been more proud of her.

I myself was wiping my tears on my own sleeve – there weren’t really any words in ‘Man-speak’ to explain how I felt – and I’ll remember the three of us being cuddled up in that little bubble of newness for all eternity.

Afterwards, I was so grateful to the midwives who delivered our son that I hit the hospital gift shop and panic-bought anything I concluded that ‘women might like’ by way of a thank you – then showered them with candles, sweets and novelty soap.

I didn’t buy anything for my wife. Not even flowers. It wasn’t something that crossed my mind, but it would have been a lovely gesture. I’m a bloke; sometimes I don’t say what I should and sometimes simple things (like which way ‘round the kids’ vests go on) need pointing out to me.

I remember asking my wife that night if there was anything she wanted. She said ‘, sushi and a glass of wine’. I managed that (you’ll be pleased to hear) and as a result – though by the time the delivery guy arrived she’d had two glasses of wine –she concluded that I was the best husband and father in the whole darn world.

When asked to comment on what I think about Push Presents and the Circle of Life range that SWAG Jeweller has brought out, I thought about that night. I thought about how great it would have been to have come bearing sparkling jewels to adorn my lovely, sobbing, milky wife. After all, she wears her engagement ring every day and every night (even when that’s all she’s wearing) and it still reminds me of that blustery day in the Scottish Highlands when I knelt in a cowpat for her.

I’m sure I’m not the only guy who didn’t think to buy jewellery to celebrate my first child coming into this world (or the subsequent two) but when I sit down with my firstborn son to explain to him about the birds and the bees, I’ll be sure to mention that when the stork comes it might be a good idea to get out one’s credit card. Like I said, sometimes men need the simplest things spelling out…”

The beautiful Circle of Life collection is available online or in stores from SWAG Jeweller and includes earrings, eternity rings and pendants in diamond and emerald, ruby and sapphire stone pairings. Prices start at £595 and 20% of the proceeds will go to PANDAS, the charity for pre and postnatal depression.

Find out more at http://www.swaguk.co.uk/

Images: SWAG x Your Parent Guide Event, Amelia Allen Photography

#DadDiary: Scooting for Boys with @microscooters

One of our Dad Reviewers writes about his experience with a range of Microscooters

WP_20150613_012

#DadDiary: My eldest son is three and we got him a Microscooter back at 18 months when we were in France over Xmas. I spent many a freezing day pulling him up and down ‘les rues’ and ‘dans la foret’ – he was a bit too little and had no patience for it. Then I (‘like a fool’, says my missus) left it outside of our previous flat and it was stolen…

So I was really chuffed at the chance to review not just another Mini microscooter for my eldest son, but also one of the new Mini2Go with my youngest son (who makes up for in energy and enthusiasm what he currently lacks in hair!) – AND – a Flex Air one myself (reliving my boyhood dream).

I’m one of those Dads who is passionate about engineering and the first thing that struck me  about the kids’ scooters is how smoothly they glide. In fact, when (at first) you need to give the lads a push or a pull to get them going, unlike with the cheaper scooters out there which lack any sort of energy efficiency, these are lightweight, have a fluid movement and little resistance; the net result is easy on my back (which already doubles up as a pony most days!)

WP_20150613_003

Like I said, my eldest really didn’t have any interest the last time we tried to get him scooting. But this time – and with a striking bright orange set of wheels – he couldn’t wait to get himself down the street. Steering wasn’t his forte straight away, so my missus sensibly suggested that we get him a helmet. He also LOVED the fact that the scooter comes with a set of stickers – so immediately covered not only the chassis but also the wheels, himself – and the dog – with them.

My youngest is the sporty one, and tenacious with it. The Mini2Go comes with a removable seat that is robust enough to sit on but doesn’t hinder the movement of the scooting (or in his case, bum shuffling!) at all. It’s a bit like a ‘go faster’ Trunki. It also came with a cuddly monkey that won my son’s heart straight away – it’s almost like Microscooters had met him before they designed this model!

And as for mine, well – I must confess that I do work in the Shoreditch area of East London and have something of a loathing for the bearded, bespectacled hipsters you see accessorizing with ‘grown up’ scooters. But you never see them actually scoot anywhere – they just park them up outside groovy coffee shops.

Now, personally I fancy myself as a bit of a skateboarding legend (in my head) and love the fact that this adult scooter has the look and feel of a skateboard deck and has a reasonable turn of speed to it. The whole thing folds down into something you could either carry or chuck in the back of the car (I’ll admit, it took me a bit of head-scratching to get it unfolded the first time but that’s because it is actually SO simple that a man-brain tends to over think the mechanism! My missus just went ‘oh, does it work like this?’ and the chassis unfolded like a dream…)

Day one I thought I’d have a little try ’round the garden and find my feet a bit. Not likely as straight away the boys were wanting a race… And then another race… By that evening we were whizzing down the street high-five-ing each other.

Later that night I fancied a beer and scooted myself up to the off-licence. It’s a bit of a dilemma actually; do you take the scooter into the shop, leave it outside…? But the guy behind the counter thought it was awesome and so I brought it in, he had a little go… we did the male bonding thing. On the ride back I thought I’d chance a cheeky ollie, but then spied a couple of teenagers riding their scooters completely hands-free… So I left the showing off to them!

Day two we had to go to the in-laws for lunch. It’s quite a long way and we took public transport (to avoid the Sunday drivers that make my blood boil). Normally eldest son will have a moan about the walk to the station at either end of this journey; I end up having him on my shoulders and then it’s Radox in the bath for me that night… But today I suggested we take his scooter on the train – and this went down pretty well. So well that by the time we were at the first station we needed to set down a few ground rules about no scooting on the platform, no scooting on the stairs, no scooting into commuters… You can just hoik the scooter up onto the luggage racks (adult ones too) and I fashioned myself a tow rope (from a bit of rope… creative eh?) thinking he might need a pull up the hill to the grandparents – but instead he scooted himself and chased me with ‘a lasso’ …

Tomorrow I’m dropping my car in to be serviced, so the plan is to take the scooter in the boot and then scoot home from the garage.

I’m a Scooter Boy now.

WP_20150613_007

(Follow more of this Dad-blogger’s adventures at Wild’s World…)