Sound Beginnings at the Newbury Spring Festival

We’re so lucky in Newbury to have some fantastic and world-class events. I’ve just received a copy of the Newbury Spring Festival line-up which looks amazing. As ever, my eye was drawn first and foremost to the Sound Beginnings event at Sheepdrove.

The annual event is a lovely introduction to classical music for small children who are invited to listen to the fabulously-talented husband-and-wife team Mikhail Kazakevich and Elena Zozina who perform at back-to-back pianos accompanied by lively narration by Richard Norris.

It’s informal and cosy and if you get there early, you can nab a bean bag to relax on as you appreciate the music. Sheepdrove’s surroundings and acoustics are perfect for an intimate performance of this size.





It’s also perfectly-timed at about an hour meaning a balance is struck between children having the opportunity to hear and understand the story, while there’s not enough time to get bored. After the main performance, there’s usually the opportunity for children to get up near to the instruments and see the pianists’ flying fingers at close quarters. That is 100 times more powerful than nagging them to do their piano practice!

This year it’s Sleeping Beauty and prices include lunch:

Sunday 8th May, Sheepdrove Eco Centre, Lambourn
10.00am & 12 noon
£15.00 adults
£8.50 children over 5 years
£45 family ticket
Under 5’s free

Other events to look forward to at the Spring Festival include Clare Teal who is performing her with her “mini big band” trio.

I spoke to Clare Teal recently and she is officially awesome. She’s going to be performing songs from the Great American Song Book and when we spoke, asked me if there was such a thing as a Newbury gin as she is buying regional gins from every place she tours.

The line-up is here:

#TBT – Our trip to Autocar to test drive Toyota Verso

I’ve never been one of the cool kids, but even I knew that I had reached an age milestone when I got excited about being invited to check out the new Toyota Verso seven seater at What Car?

Greeted by an incredibly friendly team who had no trouble with the chaos that we brought with us, we met two press officers from Toyota and a couple of other mums and dads.

We check out the Toyota Verso.

The McBaby looks over his shoulder – after all, you can’t see everything in the blind spot.

We are in the market for a new car as I have been turning up at client meetings in my campervan which does not give the right impression. We also need something more reliable and with better safety equipment, starting with airbags and seatbelts perhaps. Personally, I like my wheels to come with a bed, a fridge and a cooker in the back, but carrying around all of that equipment means we have all the fuel efficiency of a Sherman Tank driven by a fat man.

The Toyota Verso is a definite contender and I was surprised how drawn I was to it. The previous version was a bit “meh” – a solid workhorse but nothing remarkable about it at all. The new version has been revised and has better fuel economy and lower CO2 emissions than its predecessor and looks a lot sleeker and more interesting than the previous version. There’s more standard equipment and though we didn’t test drive it, we were assured that it is quieter and more stable.

It has nifty touches such as a mirror that reflects all the action in the five rear seats (I could have done with that on the journey up), and myriad options for the configuration of the seats which move individually, meaning that you can fold all of them to move furniture round or have all seven seats up.

I give it 8/10. Will ask MrM for his opinion and a cheque and will keep you posted!


Throwback Thursday #TBT – that time we lost our toddler in Buenos Aires

On our way into El Museo de los Ninos, my husband made an unfortunate joke about the name sounding a bit like “the museum of lost ninos”. Oh how funny this turned out to be….



We’d just entered the air-conditioned Abasto Shopping Centre after walking a long stretch of the Avenue Corrientes, the “street that never sleeps” and one of the main arteries running through Buenos Aires.

We’d come here for some sunshine and Latin romance. Our toddler, however, wanted to do nothing but run along the busy streets avoiding the dog poo and to eat the sweet caramel Argentine favourite “dulce de leche.”

Having been distracted by the searing heat, I didn’t pay much heed to my husband’s amusing joke, but instead wanted our son to run off some energy.  Entering the museum, I was pleased to be told that adults paid less to enter than children. Argentinians are great with children as I discovered each time we boarded a bus only to have nearly everyone stand up and offer us their seats.

Years back, this vast shopping centre was a fruit and vegetable market. One of the area’s most famous sons, Carlos Gardel, the renowned tango singer, hailed from this part of the city and this is where you’ll find building work and renovation aplenty. As well as the Museo de los Ninos, the Abasto shopping centre contains not only all the big name shops, but also the sole kosher McDonalds in South America.

The museum itself is a colourful wonderland showing children just what it’s like to be an adult. Three storeys of interactive shops, banks, a construction site and lots of displays amid a warren of vibrant walkways and corridors; just the place for LO to burn off some energy.

After working on the small scale docks, we went upstairs and in the blink of an eye, our son suddenly disappeared in what was essentially a smaller version of the Argentine capital.

We began a hopeful search that within less than 30 seconds became full-on panic.  A staff member tried to help and in faltering Spanish and wild gestures, I managed to tell her that I’d “forgotten” my son before the word for “lost” came to me.

I was screaming my son’s name now and tripping over small children and verb conjugations alike. My husband was much calmer and strategically looking in each different part of the “city” rather than yelling indiscriminately and crying.

Suddenly, children wearing similar clothes and haircuts appeared all over the place while my husband and I continued our surreal search within a tiny TV station, a bank, a supermarket and on a boat.

I then decided that he must have been kidnapped (I’d been reading about Charles Lindbergh’s son the night before and this had messed with my head slightly). I instructed my husband to keep looking while I ran to the entrance.  Meanwhile, a school group had come into the building and were playing a game that meant that they all wove in and out of me so that I couldn’t get past while I swore they were doing it on purpose and wept with frustration.

We found LO, eventually, unconcerned, not far from where we’d last seen him. He was inside a giant model of a toilet to show children how the sewerage system works.

According to staff, this happens quite a lot.  We set off for a celebratory meal in the San Telmo area of Buenos Aires, stopping off only to buy some reins to keep him close by.