Category Archives: Local stuff

The Rain Room at The Barbican

Rain Room, Barbican

Stanley in the rain

My advice to anyone visiting the Barbican’s Rain Room is to treat the two-hour queue as part of the outing. Bring games, books, a picnic. Bond with your neighbouring queuers. The kids can run off and make friends like they are in a Mediterranean holiday club. You can read a book, sit back, relax.

Don’t turn up there with two children, half a Tommee Tippee of watered-down orange juice, one Maisie book and 23% charge on the iPhone.

Ordinarily I would have about-heeled around as soon as I saw the sign: “Queueing time two hours from this point”. Especially as ‘this point’ was about 20 people away. But we’ve all been house bound by sickness for so long – and I was so proud of myself for having made it this far with just me and the kids and public transport – I couldn’t face the idea of going straight home.

In fact, even with my poor preparation, it wasn’t as awful as it sounds. Gertie slept for most of the 140 minutes; Stan didn’t whinge about being bored too much – and it is pretty cool when you do eventually get in there. Continue reading



Filed under Local stuff, Things to do with kids in London

Under-fives activities in Haringey

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The fact that I can never tell when and for how long Gertie will sleep makes planning out-of-the-house activities quite tricky. When she wakes up from her morning nap (anywhere between 9am and 11.30am) I usually have to scramble through various children’s centre and library timetables looking for something on at that precise moment. There’s no room for delay as the time between naps equals exactlythe amount of time needed to get out and get back without risking a pushchair sleep.

Anyway, I’ve been promising a listings post for some time now, organised by days so it is an easy reference for others like me. Sorry it’s taken me so long but it turns out there’s bloody loads going on in Haringey. I’ve managed Monday-Wednesday – rest of the week to follow.  Continue reading


Filed under Local stuff, Things to do with kids in Haringey

The rise of budget gyms

Originally written for The Guardian

easyGym, Wood Green

easyGym, Wood Green. Photo: Mohammad Hoseini

Poor gyms. They’ve suffered a few knocks recently. First there was an OFT investigation into unfair membership contracts. Then there was the Twitterstorm when LA Fitness refused to cancel the contract of a couple when the woman had fallen pregnant and the man had lost his job. And this double-dipper recession certainly isn’t helping membership numbers.

But out of the ashes rises a phoenix – in the form of no-contract, budget operators. A few weeks ago, not one but two leaflets advertising new no-contract gyms in my area dropped through my door. One was from The Gym Group, which has been on the scene since 2008 and currently has 20 gyms across England, with plans to open 20 more by the end of the year. The other leaflet was bright orange and familiarly fonted – easyGym; yes, Stelios has entered the fitness market.

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Filed under Clippings, Local stuff

Back to Netball

There are so many things from my youth I wish I could do again. I don’t mean to do them better, I literally mean to do them again because they were fun. Take GCSEs for example – how nice to spend your days doing a bit of art followed by an hour or so of French study, followed by some messing about in a science lab, followed by a nice swim. Or university clubs and societies – all those activities laid on, and on your doorstep – fantastic. A summer camp – that would be fun wouldn’t it? Heck, I never even went to girl guides as a kid but I sure would like to go now.

While, sadly, I can’t go back and do most of these things, but tonight I did get one welcome blast from the past … Continue reading


Filed under Local stuff

I heart London parks – Stationers, Mayfield Road, N8

Stationers Park map

They say absence makes the heart grow fonder and that was certainly true when we left London to live in Shanghai for a year in 2009. In China entertaining Stanley usually involved a sweaty 45-minute cab ride across the city just to visit a soft play area, such was the dearth of accessible and affordable things to do with kids. Here in London there is an embarrassment of freebies – museums, galleries, children’s centres, city farms etc etc. But my favourite of all, is the parks – specifically, local playgrounds. Continue reading


Filed under Family, Local stuff, Things to do with kids in Haringey, Things to do with kids in London, Uncategorized

New community cafe in N15

The past few years have seen a rise in the number of community cafes opening across the country. In Haringey alone we already have a couple that I know of: Downhill’s Park (affordable food alongside training and employment for people with learning difficulties); and Station House on Stapleton Hall Road (serving food donated by supermarkets that is past the sell-by date and providing catering training for volunteers). I’m sure there are probably more.

And what’s not to like? Usually run by enthusiastic volunteers – people who care about community cohesion and giving something back, rather than profits alone – they are a place where local residents can get together and eat a good meal, something not always that simple for many in the community.

On Friday I lunched at a new community café opening near West Green Road, here in Tottenham. Filling the Gap N15 is an initiative set up by local parents Rennee Taylor and Kate McMath King. Tired of having to trek over to Crouch End for a kiddie friendly, healthy lunch, they decided to try opening somewhere in our neck of the borough.  Their aim is to provide lunch every Friday for all-comers, charging just £5 per family. Continue reading

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Filed under Family, Local stuff, Things to do with kids in Haringey, Things to do with kids in London

Call out for local kids’ events

I want to compile a list of the regular kids’ events and activities in and around Haringey. Every time I find myself with a spare half hour with the kids I have to trawl through several children’s centre timetables or conduct an online search. So I’ve decided to try to list all the events in one place, by day. I’m nearly ready to publish it – I have pretty much all the children’s centres and libraries, but if anyone knows of any groups, please message me or comment below so I can add them. I’m mainly interested in under-fives at the moment, and I’m not including courses, like swimming or football.


Filed under Family, Local stuff, Things to do with kids in London

In Praise of … Markfield Park, Tottenham

Despite having grown up in Seven Sisters and having lived in N15 for the past year, I have only just discovered the wonders of Markfield Park. Tucked down off the one-way system at Tottenham Hale, about half a mile down the canal from Springfield Park, is a little unexpected delight.

Markfield Park map

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Filed under Family, Local stuff, Things to do with kids in Haringey, Things to do with kids in London

Fix My Street – I made a complaint to Haringey council and it got sorted!


I know, I know, the headline to this post is pretty unbelievable, but I swear it’s true. For the past 18 months there has been building works going on at a property on my street. I say going on, they actually ground to a halt around 17 months ago due to a lack of planning permission, apparently. But the building-site hoardings remained and have blocked the pavement all this time. So every day for a year or so I have grumbled my way into the middle of the road with the pram, unable to pass safely on the pavement. Never once did I think that I, little old me, had the power to effect change.

Then I discovered this site:, a kind of Complaints ‘R Us. No pothole too small, no dog turd too big – you can make any complaint you like and they will forward it to the relevant department of your local council, wherever you live in the UK. Continue reading

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