acepuppets


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I have a billion things to do and an unwelcome visit to the dentist today but have become sidetracked by the Royle Family.  Note the ‘e’ at the end of Royale because it is not Harry, William, Charles and Elizabeth I’m talking about.  No, it’s Denice, Dave, Jim, Barbara and Anthony.  They are a family that is probably closer to everyone’s roots than we would all like to admit.

These days we have to be cool, beautiful and have exciting lives (or at least pretend we have).  The Royale family is reminiscent of simple Saturdays spent at Grandparents talking about everyday things.  Nothing remarkable happens and everyone is very familiar with each other but you knew that love enveloped the family.

Life revolves around the television schedule which provokes lots of banal conversations about nothing particular.  This is where the magic lies because weaved within the monotony the family counsels each other with everyday ups and downs.  We mock the family for their crudeness and lack of sophistication but they are united and communicating with each other.

This nineties sitcom is dated due to the lack of technology and the fact that everyone is engaging together.  These days everyone has their own screen to look at and communicates through text messages and narcissistic Facebook posts.  Everyone over shares their thoughts and fiction becomes truth if enough people believe it.

We see celebrities with jet-set lifestyles dying prematurely of illnesses associated with poverty.  Sadly they die alone or are discovered by paid employees.  Lottery winners end up despising their win and self-destruct with the change of life it brings.  Our wildest dreams involve yachts, foreign holidays, fast cars and big houses but our soul and hearts yearn for family and love and being able to be ourselves with people who love us unconditionally.

The Royale family has the type of lifestyle we really want it is not perfect, shrouded in poverty and conflict but there is a sense of belonging and love that money just can’t buy.

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When your child first starts school you worry about them; settling in, making friends, coping with the work and hope beyond hope that they will not become the victim of bullying.  You make friends with the other parents because you all have the welfare of your children in common.  As your child grows older mothers form friendship groups that can last a life time.  However, if you make the fatal mistake of making friends with a toxic person you are likely to find yourself isolated and alienated by other parents when the friendship turns sour.

Unfortunately, there are still adults who behave like children (worse than in some cases). If you are on the right side of these people your life is wonderful and waiting at the school gates is a social occasion.  If you dare to have a different opinion or challenge their bullying behavior towards others you seriously risk being ostracised (or being sent to Coventry).  They will use their loudness to play the victim and embrace the power of social media to show how hard done by they are. Suddenly you are ignored and others of similar ilk turn into juveniles and support the bully in isolating you.

This is when you realise that you only know these people because of the school run and that losing their friendship is not actually such a big deal.  As an adult, you can drop your child off early in the morning and arrive last minute to pick them up so you are not standing in hostile territory every day.  Being ignored and snubbed as an adult is difficult and upsetting enough so imagine what it is like for a child.  How can we expect child bullies to improve their behaviour if their parents find it perfectly acceptable?

Ironically if someone was to insult them, a friend or family member you can guarantee that they would have taken much more aversive action.  The school run is like being back in school again thrown together with people you would not naturally make friends with.  There are school bullies who are in their twenties, thirties and forties.  If your gut tells you to be wary listen because once the niceties associated with settling your child in school are over you may find that you have opened a hornet’s nest and laid yourself open to bullying.

If you are a parent who is the victim of a bully at the school gates, you are not the only one in the world.  It probably isn’t completely personal because they don’t see you as a person, only someone they can have power over and fulfil their sadistic need to cause pain and anguish.


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Children already find school really exciting, what with imaginative play, spending time with your friends, practising kissing and of course school playground equipment. After a hard morning doing maths and English, being able to play on school playground equipment is a welcome break. School playground equipment has a duel purpose in the playground and the variety of pieces available reflects this.  School playground equipment can be used to support the curriculum and as entertainment during playtimes.

Music

Children can have music lessons outside with a number of outdoor musical instruments that are both robust and produce pretty good sounds.  Teachers can feel relieved that they don’t have to control the infernal noise generated by music lessons and can have a natural stance to the lessons.  During playtime, children can practice what they have learnt during lessons because the instruments are easily accessible.  Schools can purchase outdoor musical instruments as a group or individual pieces.  If the instruments are dotted around the playground children will, ‘discover’, them at playtime and create music of their own.  If the instruments are installed near to each other,  they are perfect for having a summer music lessons.  Generally choices are made according to space available and the size of the school budget.

Environmental

Teaching children about the environment can often be an abstract affair which can make it difficult to comprehend.  Playground companies have recognised this and developed ranges of planters, compost makers, bird feeders and bug hotels.  Children will be able to plant and nurture seeds while watching them grow every time they go out at playtime.  They will be able to observe birds and see how garden waste is recycled to make food for new plants.  This type of playground equipment is really useful if the school is in an urban area and there isn’t much greenery in the playground.  Also the raised beds mean that they are not prone to having too many unwanted visitors.

Story Telling

Children actually like telling stories, they may not be as keen writing them down but the fact that they love the sound of their own voice means that they love to share stories.  Many schools have story telling corners which are centred around a storytelling chair.  Children can either listen to stories being told to them or they could take it in turns to share stories with the class.  The teacher can guide the children so that they are not so long winded.  Eventually children will start incorporating their story telling skills in their writing.

Balance And Coordination

Using climbing walls and climbing frames teaches children an awful lot about how their body works.  Children see their friends scaling the playground equipment and set themselves goals to be as good as their friends.  In the past climbing frames in school playgrounds were quite terrifying but now they are accessible for all children to enjoy.  Just negotiating different equipment allows children to explore their limits and train their body’s so that they can achieve their personal goal.

Next time you are waiting for your children at the end of the day – have a sneaky peak at the school playground equipment – you will wish that your school playground was just as exciting.

 


 

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The sand castle we all attempt to make but fail miserably

Since we have been blessed this year with Mediterranean weather my son has chomped his way through lots of orange ice lollies and built castles in his sandpit. We decided to buy Alistair a sand pit because every time I picked him up from after school club he would be knee-deep in the sand pit.  In fact whenever there was an opportunity to dig or water play equipment was available Alistair would be covered in sand and soaking wet.  My Mum informs me that I used to shovel mud into the kitchen when I was small, so this predisposition to digging  was probably inherited from me.

We decided that the day could be rearranged so that Alistair would be able to come home at normal school time, which meant that he could relax more after school and I would be more organised to listen to him read.  This meant that he would miss playing in the sandpit so I decided to get him a smallish sandpit that is big enough for him to enjoy getting covered in sand and dig to his heart’s content.

The sandpit is under a garden tap so I encouraged Alistair to be sparing when adding water to the sand.  This was a piece of advice he chose to ignore and he turned the tap on so high that he couldn’t turn it off.  After following the screams I found him standing in a sandpit that resembled the beach when the tide came in.  We got as much water out as we could but it was still like sinking sand.  Of course sand this wet was not very good for building with so Alistair’s first play with the new sandpit lasted about ten minutes and it took two weeks for it to dry sufficiently for Alistair to play with it again.

At last the sandpit is dry enough for construction purposes and frantic digging has resumed, everything is covered in sand and my son has learnt how to use the vacuum cleaner.   If you ask a child why they love playing in sand and water they just tell you that it is, ‘fun’.  Sand and water play is actually classified in both the heuristic and imaginative play categories and probably many others too.

Heuristic play is essentially having the ability to play with everyday objects you find around you.  Little children are encouraged to play with pots, pans and wooden spoons while slightly older children can make tents with sheets.  Heuristic and imaginative play tends to merge into one when children are left to their own devices, this is particularly noticeable when playing in a sandpit.  As long as your child is not likely to eat the sand you can step back a little and let them get absorbed into their own adventure.

I suspect that this heat wave will dry the sand out again and the whole water episode will be repeated.


Science is exciting, particularly when you can do it at home and make a big mess in the garden.  Some science experiments are so cool that even big kids like to have a go – you know on, ‘Wine Friday’, when you are being a rebel. Science experiments don’t have to involve expensive kits with copper sulphate in them to be great fun.  Kitchen cupboards and the corner shop provide the best ingredients for impromptu science afternoons.

The following five experiments are categorized into items used and different scientific concepts.

Vinegar And Bicarbonate Of Soda

These two ingredients can kick up a real stink when used in experiments, this is why it is advisable to set up a table in the garden and do it there.  These two experiments are really smelly but you will love them.

Bouncy Egg

You Need: Vinegar, uncooked egg in shell, a jar and a peg for your nose.

What to do: (This takes a bit of time so you could start it at the beginning of the afternoon)

  • Half fill a glass of jar with vinegar.
  • Put a raw egg in the vinegar.
  • Leave for two days.
  • Place egg in water and remove shell.
  • Feel how bouncy it is and shine a light through it.
  • Put on plate and cut egg to reveal yoke still intact.

If you haven’t got time to do this experiment – this video shows you what happens.

This happens because the egg is made up of calcium carbonate and the vinegar is acetic acid.  The acetic acid takes away all of the calcium leaving the egg soft.

What do you think will happen if you leave the egg on a plate for a day or two?

Inflating A Balloon Without Any Puff

You Need: Bicarbonate Of Soda, Vinegar, Balloon

What to do:

  • Pour the vinegar into a bottle.
  • Use a funnel to put some bicarbonate of soda into a balloon (That you have stretched a lot).
  • Put the balloon on the bottle neck – making sure it is firmly on.
  • Watch the balloon inflate.

Again watch this video to see what happens :-

This happens because the acetic acid in the vinegar reacts with the bicarbonate of soda and causes an effervescent chemical reaction.

What do you think will happen if you use more bicarbonate of soda?

Diet Coke, Mentos and Eggs

Experiments using these three ingredients cause excitement or are used as a warning about drinking Diet Coke in moderation.

Mentos And Diet

You Need: Lots of packets of Mentos, Diet Coke (still in its bottle) and goggles.

What To Do:-

  • Supervise all children (and silly adults)
  • Simply unscrew the lid off the Diet Coke
  • Put Mentos into bottle
  • Stand well back and wear swimming goggles

If you are too scared to do the experiment this video will give you a clue as to what happens:-

What is the minimum number of Mentos you need to make the fountain come out?

Egg In Diet Coke

You Need: 365 days, a jug you are not going to use for a year, a boiled egg and Diet Coke.

What To Do:-

  • Boil an egg
  • Fill jug with Diet Coke
  • Put Egg In Jug
  • Programme alarm in your phone for a years time
  • Go and enjoy yourself
  • Come back in a year and if it hasn’t been thrown away rince egg and see what has happened.

The egg shell is made from calcium – remember your teeth are made from calcium.

If you can’t be bothered to wait a year here is a time lapsed version of the experiment:-

Does Lemonade cause the same thing to happen?

Hydraulic Systems

A hydraulic system is used to increase or decreasing the force of a push by using different sized hydraulic cylinders.  Hydraulic systems are used all around us.  A good example is a brake in a car – you only put a small amount of pressure on the brake peddle but a lot more is used to make the car stop.

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Children will have probably made a simple hydraulic system at school using syringes, tubing and water. Here is a video showing a girl using a hydraulic system to make a lift.

What other kinds of objects can you move using a hydraulic system?

You can find many more great ideas on the internet for wild experiments.  Children please make sure that you are supervised by a responsible adult to avoid getting hurt.

 


 

It is probably just as well that Walney begins with a, ‘W’, because it lends itself to the alliterated nickname, ‘Windy Walney’.  Anyone who has visited this beautiful, gritty island  will remember the wind racing round their heads.  Walney has some of the best beaches in the Furness Peninsula and generations of children have consumed sand in their picnics while trying to build the biggest sandcastles ever.  I remember taking crabs home with the intention of keeping them as my pets but accidentally killed them when putting then in tap water or releasing them on the lawn.  We didn’t notice the wind on Walney during the late 70’s and early 80’s but it was probably still there.

Walney Air Field

To be perfectly truthful I know very little about Walney Air Field and don’t think I have ever been on it.  If you click on the source link on the photo you will access a detailed chronological list of its history dating back from 1928 to the present day.  Imagine if Barrow had continued to boom, the airport could have been extended to be an international airport.  However this has not happened and the runway was maintained by BAE Systems and the Lakes Gliding Club resides there.

Wind Farm

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Source: Chris Cross

Although the view has become a little bit distorted by this army of wind turbines it shows that the famous Walney Wind is capable of producing energy.  Wind turbines use both variable speed drives and programmable logic controllers to ensure that the blades are not damaged by the force of the wind.  Natalie Bennet, leader of the Green Party, has suggested that we scrap Trident and make wind turbines instead.  Apparently there is good business in selling wind turbines around the world.  The wid turbines almost fence Walney in and it looks as if there is a great obstacle before you can sale on the ajitated Irish Sea.

Biggar Bank

Biggar Bank is one of the wonderful beaches on Walney, children can play on miles of golden sand while being over looked by Coniston Old Man.  I remember one summer playing with other children on the beach when a little girl drank my orange juice, I was just about to protest when her elder brother warned me that if I tried to stop her I would be, ‘sorry’.  Needless to say I didn’t try to find out why I would be sorry but have carried the injustice with me ever since.  My son loves going to the beach and playing with other children too – there hasn’t been an orange juice incident yet.

 

Jubilee Bridge

Walney is an island, or more accurately a spit (we loved to offend friends from Walney by telling them they lived on a spit) in the Irish Sea.  Walney is connected to Barrow – in – Furness by a Bascule bridge that rises so that boats can pass through.  Both adults and children find the concept of the road turning into a vertical wall exciting.  However if you were in a rush and the bridge went up I doubt you would be in awe of the technology.  A Bascule bridge uses counter balance to lift each of the sides.  It truly is magnificent watching large boats passing through the gap.

BAE Systems

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Jubilee Bridge between Barrow and Walney. Source: NWEMAIL

You only really understand the significance of the area’s maritime heritage as you leave Walney Island.  The horizon is filled with huge magnolia boat sheds that eclipse the houses around them.  BAE Systems design and build the controversial Trident Submarines and people in the area are really dependent on the contracts in order to work.  Barrow boomed in the 18th century with the steel industry, the railway and the explosion in boat production.  The local industries provided job security for locals and people were able to maintain their close knit communities.

Boom And Bust

The steel industry expired in 1984, which was probably devastating but the area still had the ship yard – or so we thought.  When I was in school the year above us was the last to taken on by Vicker’s Shipbuilding as apprentices  and many workers were laid off.  Teenagers now had to reconsider their future because an apprenticeship was no longer going to provide a life long career.  Experienced workers had to leave the area and unemployment rose.  The knock on effect on local business was devastating and Barrow became a ghost of its former its former self. If you want to find more about the area’s maritime history the Dock Museum is a wonderful place to go.

Again there are so many things to say about this area of Cumbria that you have to stick to the main facts. I haven’t mentioned the caravan parks, playgrounds, the seals and the hidden jewels of Walney Island.  If you are ever up this way – maybe you could find them for yourself.

 


I remember vividly the moment I fell in love with Bugsy Malone.  My brother got the part of Baby Face in a local drama group production of Bugsy Malone.  As a family we were all very proud and obtained a pirated copy of the film.  We wore the old video tape out watching Baby Face say his immortal words, ‘Pass this to Baby Face – Oh I am Baby Face’, and then promptly chase the big guys with a baseball bat. I was more distracted by Scott Baio who played Bugsy Malone and have been in love with him ever since. These are the reasons why I could watch Bugsy Malone a multitude of times.

Bugsy Malone – Synopsis

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Bugsy Malone is a gangster movie set in the 1920/30s when alcohol was banned in America.  Bugsy Malone however has beautiful twist of having a cast entirely made up of children.  The film is based around uber gangster Fat Sam and his cabaret bar, which is a private members club to avoid prosecution.  The main thread of the story is the, sometimes stalled, relationship between boxing promoter Bugsy Malone and club singer Blousey Brown.  Their relationship is hindered by lack of money, starlets like Tallulah (Fat Sam’s girlfriend) and Bugsy’s involvement with gangsters.  Dandy Dan and Fat Sam were mortal enemies who spent the whole film using splurge guns to kill each other with custard.  At the end everyone at the Grand Slam gets splurged and collapse on the floor.  Bugsy Malone and Blousey Brown escape with the cash, Bugsy earned, to follow their American dream.  The rest of the cast slowly rose from the floor singing, ‘You give a little love (we could have been anything we wanted to be)’, and continued throwing custard at each other.

Cast

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Bugsy Malone is a musical so there are plenty of great songs, which incidentally are performed by adults.  Apart from delicious boxing promoter Bugsy Malone and sassy Blousey Brown we also have seductive Tallulah and hapless Fat Sam who reside mainly in the Grand Slam.  We also have Fat Sam’s gang members who all have cool names; Knuckles, Roxy Robinson, Snake Eyes and Louis.  Apparently Michael Jackson was in the film as Razmataz the pianist.  Bugsy Malone enlists the help of Leroy Smith, who he trained to be a boxer, and a group of down and outs he recruited from a soup kitchen to help Fat Sam defeat Dandy Dan.  Baby Face proved to be the most dangerous member of the group despite having a cute name and being small.  In the Grand Slam there is a sparkling cast of dancing girls and singers.  One diva is remembered because she sabotages Blousey Brown’s audition on her return and proceeds to sing high pitched and off key.  When you look at the cast list it is made up of child actors who became very famous adult film stars.

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To top all of the great things I have told you about the film all of the cars were peddle cars that resembled real child size cars and the cast got to drive them.  We all wanted to drive one of those cars.  If you want to have an uplifting afternoon and like food fights you will most definitely like Bugsy Malone.

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