First time – How I discovered Build-A-Bear is magical

A branch of Build-A-Bear (Not ours as my phone is full).  Image by Enoch Lai licenced by Creative Commons

A branch of Build-A-Bear
(Not ours as my phone is full).
Image by Enoch Lai licenced by Creative Commons

For years my now 15-year-old niece insisted she just had to go into Build-A-Bear for a look, not to buy anything, honest.

As childless aunt I didn’t get it. My sister was enthusiastic which is fair enough.

Then I spawned.

Now the spawn is four. My sister insisted on taking us to Build-A-Bear for my daughter’s fourth birthday.

We went into down, me feeling a sense of dread and doom and W bouncing in her seat as she’d finally get to go through the hallowed doors.

To be fair the colourful array of soft toy skins and accessories does look fabulous if you like that sort of thing.

Two members of staff were enthusiastically manning the store in Churchill Square, Brighton.

It smelled of lemon sherbet.

Rainbow bear at Build-A-Bear

Rainbow bear at Build-A-Bear
Image by
Anthony Easton on Flickr, licenced by Creative Commons

Poor W was slightly overwhelmed by the choice, not just soft toys but sounds and smells too.

Fortunately as an expert my sister helped her pick out a colourful basic bear and we chose a six phrase voice box (no smell).

All well and good I thought, then it came to filling the bear and I felt blown away by the magical experience.

Little W enjoyed helping pump the stuffing inside the empty case, once we had put in her own bar code and the sound.

Then the heart. This was special. She picked a gingham one, warmed it in her hands, rubbed it on her knees, elbows, across her heart and whispered a wish before giving it a kiss and putting it to her nose.

Apparently that make it work. Her little face was a picture. She bought into the magic, as much as a four-year-old will. It’s her bear made her way, with things she wanted.

This was the moment I got it. It’s more than just filling a bear shape with fluff. It is enchanting.

Once the fluff filler sewed up the toy now named Bunny Bear (I just dunno), the next mission was creating the birth certificate, so it returns when lost, and buy half a tonne of clothing.

My niece still has a wardrobe full of Build A Bear clothes and we might need one. It even has slippers and shoes.



Jeremy Corbyn mobbed like a rock star in Brighton

Jeremy Corbyn speaks with fire and passion about what he believes in.

He said: “I am very happy, very happy indeed to face a general election tomorrow.”

From now on he is in campaign mode. This is his natural state, you could tell by listening to him speak with unwavering belief.

I was one of hundreds of people waiting for him outside the Brighton Centre today, just wondering what would he say.

It was difficult to hear beyond the traffic and the throng of people applauding and chanting “ohhhh Jeremy Corbyn”.

When he left those chants continued as hundreds of people mobbed his car as it moved up West Street.


A rock star entry and exit from the sity.

What did he talk about? Well he was there to speak at the Unison conference where he received a rock star welcome, so public sector workers were key.

For seven years they’ve effectively had a pay cut and had to work harder when they are our front line services.

Two fire engines were tooting approval on the road.

“We have the greatest gap between rich and poor there has ever been in this country,” he said.

“Things have to change.”

Young people

Education and opportunities for young people were the next subject raised (once I could hear through the cheers and applause).


Every child deserves the best chance at school, who can argue with that? Young people need the best opportunities for apprenticeships and the best chance to go to university.

“Opportunity should not be a lottery based on the post code of where you were born,” he said.

“Every child deserves the same chance.

“The future does belong to you and I want a that future to be where the young do better than us.”

A good society invests in its people and he underlined how he was not sorry to pay for education and health.

He laid into the Government for putting disabled people through endless tests and declaring people fit for work when they are not.

Poverty and the horrific fire at Grenfell Tower were also addressed.

Saying almost 100 bodies have been found he described it as a turning point in our public consciousness on how people are forced to live.

“It was a tower of poverty in the richest part of the UK, ” he said.

“Maybe there will be a change and we will put money into housing.”

After a thanking the crowd for increasing Labour’s share of the vote and taking Brighton Kemptown (Lloyd Russell-Moyles was there) he gave a shout out to Hastings, where Amber Rudd so very nearly lost her seat.

What next?

What now? apart from the campaigning.

On Monday Labour puts forward its amendments to the Queen’s Speech ready to debate for the rest of the week.

He called for fair taxation and investment in health services and mental health.

“In life we don’t leave people on the side, we go to help them,” he said.

“We are going out there campaigning from now on for a decent future for us all.”

I know I want a better world for my daughter. One where she has opportunities.

It’s as simple as that.

PREVIEW: I’m a mummy and I need a spa day now

A cosy chair in a bay window with free gin and sherry

Gin and sherry by the sea in the bay window

Come see the spa they said. Have afternoon tea. What’s not to like?

My Mother’s Day dream gift is a spa day. I like to sit in hot rooms and bubbling water.

I headed off to the new Brighton Harbour Hotel, resplendent in the blazing sunshine on the seafront.

Afternoon tea for Brighton bloggers and freelancers and  a tour; it sounded like fun.

Looking around a hotel is useful as I’m often asked advice on where to stay, too, by friends coming down for the weekend.

This is when I’m useless as I’m from here, so family live here, too.

If anyone comes to stay they usually grab a spare bed with a relative.

Free gin!

When we looked around the superior rooms with a sea view our helpful guide Charlotte explained they included gin and sherry.

Yes! Booze not in the minibar (although we did look in the mini bar and it was very well stocked).

Sea view at the Brighton Harbour Hotel

One of the sea view rooms at the Brighton Harbour Hotel, with decanters of gin and sherry

The sea twinkled, the sun blazing down. It felt like a Mediterranean heaven. I could live in one of those rooms.

I was there for the spa, and that took us to the depths of the building and into smugglers’ tunnels.

There was the smell of essential oils and warmth.

It was pretty hot once you go past the treatment rooms and steaming once we went down to the pool.

While it’s not huge at 13 metres don’t think it’s designed with people swimming a kilometre a day in mind.

Hot and bubbly

Past the large hydrotherapy pool, bubbles and joy. I wanted to get in.

We headed down into the depths where the tunnels form a grotto.

Bubbling away were two large, wooden Scandinavian hot tubs with the corridors leading off to the sauna, steam room and private relaxation areas.

Hidden in the depths of the Brighton Harbour hotel, the sauna

Hidden in the depths of the Brighton Harbour hotel, the sauna

I like sitting in hot rooms. I can just imagine myself going from pool to sauna to tub to steam room. Ohhh heaven.

There’s a day pass and gift vouchers so my husband can expect heavy hints closer to Christmas and Mother’s’ Day and my birthday.

During the tour I did make mental note of the gym and treatment rooms, but for me only heat and bubbling water mattered.

Tea and cake

Leaving the spa felt quite refreshing as we settled down to tea, sandwiches and cake at the Jetty restaurant.

I’d neglected to tell them I’m vegan, so had a little wait while the other attendees exclaimed about the fabulous flavours of the dainty offerings.

Chefs work in an open-plan kitchen at The Jetty

Diners see the kitchen in action at The Jetty restaurant

Before showing us around Charlotte explained how the restaurant caters for vegetarians, vegans and gluten-free, so I wasn’t worried.

My sandwiches were delicious, packed with plant-based flavour.

The Harbour and Jetty gave an excellent impression and a delightful couple of hours diversion.

Thanks for the invitation.

Review: The Very Hungry Caterpillar

The Very Hungry Caterpillar ate through three plums

He ate through three plums, but he was still hungry

Captivating an audience of under fives is a miracle.

From the beginning the actor puppeteers caught children’s attention and imagination at The Warren.

It was the first of five shows at the Brighton Fringe venue, telling the Eric Carle stories The Artist Who Painted the Blue Horse, Mister Seahorse, The Very Lonely Firefly and finishing with The Very Hungry Caterpillar.

Dressed in white, the humans blended into the background as the beautifully crafted puppets stole the show.

The pink rabbit bounding across the stage

The pink rabbit from the man who painted a blue horse

With fluid movements the pink bunny bounded across the stage.

Lighting created an underwater effect for Mister Seahorse. The scene completed by the puppeteers wearing snorkel and masks.

It was fascinating to learn about male fish raising their families.

Mister Seahorse

Mister Seahorse

Concern for the Very Lonely Firefly was palpable as it flew around seeking its own kind, to find candles, cars, city light until finally it wasn’t lonely any more.

It was a moving piece.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar ate through one red apple

He ate through one red apple

When the moon appeared it was a great segway to lead into the main event. There on a very large leaf sat a tiny egg.

There were shrieks of delight as the tiny caterpillar popped out of his egg, before heading off to enjoy a banquet.

This was truly magnificent, beginning with a larger puppet took on a week of feasting.

He was still hungry

Children counted along with every fruit. One red apple, two pairs, three plums, four strawberries and five oranges.

Hearing the audience of young voices yell “but he was still hungry” was magical.

Munching through the picnic saw the puppeteers dancing with slices of salami, an ice cream cone and pickle.

Not forgetting the chocolate cake and lollypop.

A big fat caterpillar

He was a big fat caterpillar

Once again the caterpillar ate through one nice big green leaf to transform into a big fat caterpillar, the young audience recited the story.

Everyone was quiet as he built his coccon house before transforming.

As the giant butterfly filled the stage the multitude of children were enchanted.

The Very Hungry Caterpillar turned into a beautiful butterfly

He turned into a beautiful butterfly

This was an outstanding show. Perfect for young children and just as great for my nearly four-year-old.

I’ll give it five stars *****.

Tickets provided for review for The Argus.

Review: Dr Zeiffal, Dr Zeigal and the Hippo That Can Never Be Caught

Mouths of Lions show Dr Zeiffal, Dr Zeigal and the Hippo That Can Never Be Caught

Mouths of Lions show Dr Zeiffal, Dr Zeigal and the Hippo That Can Never Be Caught

Brighton Fringe has a bumper set of shows aimed at the under fives and out first outing took me and the wee one to The Warren.

It is amazing what you can do with a load of shipping containers, and The Warren turned a few into the Studio 2 theatre space.

Mouths of Lions production, Dr Zeiffal, Dr Zeigal and the Hippo That Can Never Be Caught, is an award-winning show pitched at young children up to aged seven.

It was a delightful romp with a great deal of audience participation.

Dr Zeiffal is a member of the Hippo Institute following sightings across the UK.

Despite her efforts she has never seen a hippo in the wild.

She has a multitude of equipment displayed on stage in the special equipment area.

It has great packaging. Always have great packaging.

Quality performance

Georgia Murphy’s performance was very engaging prompting an enthusiastic response from the young audience.

It’s a two-person show, with Oliver Weatherly taking on the role of hippo and Dr Zeigal.

There was a great deal of mischief surrounding his cheeky hippo.

This is a very physical slapstick show, with lots of running around and the main characters leaving the theatre box shreeking with enthusiasm.

After carrying out some research I discovered the two stars trained a the prestigous clown school École Philippe Gaulier. You could tell by the quality of their performance.

Delighting children

My daughter is nearly four and was captivated for the whole hour.

She joined in with the pantomimesque “he’s behind you” elements.

There is a rather chaotic ending and some of the children went on stage to help Dr Zeiffal.

Seeing her work around them was quite delightful.

But as she said: “Keep calm. Please stay in your seats. Everything is under control.”

The final performance is on Monday, May 8 at 4pm. Tickets are £9.

I give it **** (four stars)

Elliot and the Enormous Sneeze is their second show at The Warren: Studio 2 from June 2-4.

Tickets were provided via The Argus for a separate review.

See the list of 23 events at Brighton Fringe for the under-fives I curated for Officréche.

Addicted to ParkRun

Spot the Dennis! #hovepromparkrun #BM10

My ParkRun inspiration

A post shared by Sarah Booker (@nimmykins) on Apr 9, 2017 at 12:39am PDT

When I put my mind to it I can do things.

This year I’ve cut out dairy after saying goodbye to cheese at Christmas, and in January took up ParkRun.

So far I’ve attended ten events, completed eight runs (power walks) and volunteered once.

I shaved three minutes and 24 seconds of my first time.

Like a loon I’ve signed up to the 2018 BM10. I know I can finish within the required two hours.

Pretty sure I’ll be last. I’m nearly always second to last, but I DON’T CARE!

Nearly every week it feels great to take part.

What makes ParkRun so special is the positive attitude.

People cheer me along at the back. I cheer people lapping me.

This weekend I scanned the finishers (I’m not well).

Some of these people are really fast, but what made it very ParkRunny was the number of them who thanked me for volunteering.

It makes you feel warm inside.

This week I start my introduction to running course with Brighton and Hove Women’s Running Club.

I feel better in myself and much healthier.

Bump bragging, Beyoncé and getting real

Today I ended up listening to a discussion on Emma Barnett’s show on BBC Radio Five Live, accusing Beyoncé of bump bragging.

One of the commenters complained about flaunting a bump in the face of infertile women and, goodness, what if she had a miscarriage.

Considering Beyoncé and Jay Z have been open about the miscarriage they experienced before their daughter’s birth, they’re definitely aware of the pain.

With a five year age gap, they may have experienced issues conceiving another child, too.

Who knows? It’s none of our business.

I recall some talk that she’s faked her pregnancy and used a surrogate, something to do with a shift in her bump when she sat down during a TV interview.

This certainly sticks two fingers up to her critics.

If she wants to take a bump picture let her.

Yes, something might go wrong. It happens a lot. 

So many women experience loss alone and in silence. Until more of us share the lonelier it is.

If you don’t want to share pictures that’s fine.

If you don’t want to see bump and scan pictures, that’s also fine.

Just don’t say people shouldn’t share them. 

Should we also hide babies and children to protect the bereaved and infertile from upset? No.

Just stop moaning about other people who are not doing any harm while living their own lives.

My bump at 36 weeks. Not so glam and fancy.

My bump at 36 weeks. Not so glam and fancy.