Didsburydad's Blog

From the not so mean streets of M20, blog about being a dad, Didsbury and dealing with parental confusion

Archive for the tag “CBeebies”

Sunday Morning, just me and The Twins

It’s the morning after the night before and I am currently remembering why a) I never have a drink unless the toddlers are in another city and b) at 4am, 3 hours after you were expansively telling everyone how much you love them, you love no one, least of all yourself.   Within minutes the plate this came in resembled post war Dresden. 
I have been blessed in many ways from football to knowing how to debone a chicken. But these gifts pale into the shadows next to the pain of The Mighty Headed Boy rotating his three favourite questions. “Is it morning?”, “Can we go downstairs?” “Daddy, I’ve got you a …. (Insert pretend item from one of many games now scattered across the floor) from 3am. All delivered at a volume that pays homage to Motorhead and at a distance that shows the same respect for personal space that makes going to the toilet a spectator sport. Bless them. I’m counting down to 11am when their early start catches up and they crash for an hour’s peace whilst Didsbury Wife and I do something constructive. Constructive being either a little competitive tiredness bragging or picking things from the floor for round 2, the afternoon. 
 my mind – empty
So right now I am doing parenting by the manual. Not Gina Ford or any of the well meaning stuff, but pragmatic – time to sit down for a brew parenting guide. 

The Mighty Headed boy and the Pearly Princess are sitting on the couch being babysat by Postman Pat and Duggee. They have cake for breakfast and probably need to be reminded to go to the toilet before one or other is sitting in the shallow end. I am having a cup of tea and thinking about the flow of life. 

 not last night’s menu

When you have twin babies you are a tourist attraction. Friends, families and unwelcome strangers cannot keep away from you, your home or your buggy in the street.
When you have twin toddlers you are as welcome as an Estate Agent in a room full of people with social skills. People who want you and eight, uncoordinated limbs that will break everything in their sticky grasp, sitting underneath a voice box whose volume is close to piercing most of the time are strangely hard to find. 
We are lucky to have a babysitter whose young age belies a manner and heart that makes boddler care look easy. However, whereas the sight of gurgling, inert, easy to manage babies has throngs getting broody and planning an early night, it ends there. People see us in the park and book vasectomies. 
But then it changes. The paracetamol kicks in, the tea rehydrates and we have a game of balloons. This is followed by two happy campers hanging from my head as we watch Blaze (Dora the Explorer with Cars and very popular). I inhale the lovely scent of little ones, ignore the scent of nighttime pull-up and bask in this adoration that I know will eventually be replaced by self-awareness and teenage angst. 

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This Much I Know… Didsbury Confessions

This much I know. 39 years and 11 months is now so far behind me, there have been so many moons that they have their own fable. I went to confession (obviously not Catholic, but bear with me). I began. Forgive me father for I have sinned. It is over three years since my last full night’s sleep and I have been having dark thoughts about the presenters on CBeeBies being eaten by Milkshake’s chirpier, brighter, less educationally motivated, primary-coloured team. I know longer remember which of Didsbury’s Estate Agents is more purple and last time I blinked, Didsbury Son had become a broken-voiced brunette, not my squeaky little blondini. 

  Parenthood. Despite the occasional case splashed over the tabloids, you can’t stop them growing and changing. Sadly, the more independent and indifferent they become – the more you are probably doing your job well.

As Global News’ “refit” stretches into a fourth month and we pass a unique milestone of 6 months since a new hairdresser opened in M20, this much I know.

1. After the huge success of Bisou Bisou, the promising start by Bosu Body Bar has left me hoping that the new Italian Deli on Wilmslow Road is called “Bologna Bad Boys” in this year of the alliterative B.

1a). Private Hire Cabs must get paid extra for doing u-turns in Didsbury village. The only other explanation I thought of was unprintable. 

2. Hipster Beards show no sign of being shaved or trimmed and the American Hick look is now soooo fashionable that is not just my lack of caring about reality television, understanding of Periscope or my Mullet that give my age away.

3. When potty training be careful what you wish for. Using Chocolate buttons as an early reward is a habit harder to undo in a toddler, than smoking in an adult. 

4. We may not be able to solve religious disharmony on a global scale, but surely if we all send positive thoughts then Waitrose will open in Didsbury. ( I have identified several locations East, West and Centre should they bite.)

5. The difference between defining Didsbury varies greatly between Estate Agents (20 square miles) and School Authorities (200 yards).

6. With morning mist, clear nighttime skies and a choice of Bookies – this is still a great place to live.

7. When you start mixing up the names of My Little Pony and Paw Patrol in a discussion about horse racing you know you have changed, not your friends. 

8. I met someone with triplets last week. They looked at me with the same look I save for when I see someone with one boddler moaning about being tired. 

 
9. I may complain about teenagers, but in two weeks it’s Winter Camp. Didsbury Son and I will wave goodbye with an equal sense of imminent freedom. A day later I will be slightly twitchy and looking forward to his smile coming back – whichever mood and scent accompanies it. 

Postcards from Murcia 4/4 – This Much I Know.

This much I have learned about family holidays as 39 years and 39 months sail into the distant past and the dread of another 6 years primary school edutainment looms into view:
1. The only advantage to flying with small children is priority loading. This does not compensate for knowing that your only chance of getting someone’s kit off in the plane toilet on board is if they’ve had an accident.
2. That the villa comes complete with Sky Sports and Movies only adds to your frustration that the only channels you’ll be surfing are CBeeBies, Pop and Didsbury Son’s Russell Howardathon on Comedy Central. 
3. Going through security is now one of the best bits. Watching stern security guards trying to deal with The Mighty Headed Boy’s button pressing and Foghorn Leghornesque questions and being hugged by the Pearly Princess can be a joy to behold.  

S

 
4. You would not think you had enough water in you to sweat as much as you do for the first 50 miles in your hire car. Your mantra “stick to the right, priority to the left” will haunt your dreams. 
5. Looking around the baby pool at the other parents I realised I was the only one who remembered the peseta and Laurie Cunningham playing for Real Madrid. 
6. My twins were the only boddlers not weeing in the swimming pool. They both insisted on getting out, standing next to the pool and weeing on the ground for an audience.
7. My holiday extravagances are more likely to lead to gout than a night of excess and a slight feeling of guilt.
8. I don’t judge anyone by their tattoos unless they are British and their tattoos are Sanskrit, Japanese, Chinese or Latin (football club mottos excluded), then I do judge them. 
9. Crisps taste better in the sun.
10. Wherever I go in the world, however deflated I am to return to Britain, the first flat voweled voice I hear at Passport Control reminds me this is home.
Home now and ready for the damp descent to autumn and those lovely winter nights when the ground shines and your breath leads you home. Good luck everyone. 

In The Night Garden v The Football Factory

Introducing children to culture early on in their development is important for them to attain the kind of middle-class snobbery that make X-Factor, Jeremy Kyle and popcorn such guilty pleasures. Didsbury Son was scared by a number of clowns and bored by theatre early on; the scars should open nicely later in life.

Thus today, the Mighty-Headed boy and The Pearly Princess made their theatrical debut; In The Night Garden Live at The Trafford Centre’s Showdome. It was a combination of Shakespeare, Siegfried and Roy and Cirque du Soleil and as we cheered, laughed and cried… Iggle Piggle found his blanket before the smell of filled nappy and Aptamil overwhelmed the space.

The lead-up had been tricky. I am a keen supporter of Arts and Culture (it’s paid the mortgage occasionally) and this week my diverse cultural tastes collided. The week had begun with the start of the football season. I engaged the frame of mind needed to cope with dodgy backstreets , testosterone rushes and the need to swear whilst singing in sync with the other 4000 former thirty-somethings pretending they hadn’t pleaded to get a pass-out.

This successful night out bled into plans for the big In The Night Garden day. I sat the twins down to remind them that even if the whole presenting team from Milkshake, riding Thomas the Tank Engine and led by Peppa Pig fronted us up – we never run (my knee is way past that), for today we are CBeebies.

When I received a text telling me I could meet Iggle Piggle and Macca Pacca afterwards I got all Danny Dyer and had halfway filled a sock with plastic building bricks when Didsbury Wife stopped me.

I came to my senses. The Tombliboos won 2-0 (although all that scratching noses and sitting on the floor saw them cautioned for time-wasting) and we got a police escort back to the car.

The play was brilliantly conceived. It was big and friendly and it’s audience was enchanted. This was a lovely escape back to gentleness for an hour. My pearly girl stared open-mouthed at the gigantic figures. She believed this world in a way that removed all adult cynicism and restored a little magic bubble to a week when the real world has sometimes seemed so harsh, the news so bleak – that even the 6am charge across the landing shouting “Daddy Mummy” seemed in danger.

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The urge to shout “Behind You” was overwhelming.

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Thankfully this was a fiercely partisan crowd, although several infants were ejected for starting anti-Balamory chants

Top 10 Tips for Travelling with Toddlers

Travelling with twin toddlers. A simple A to Z.
A. – it’s ace
2 – two soothers, two snacks, two beakers or too late, you are done for.
Z. – toddling boddlers x 2. No chance of Zzzzzs.

Now that’s out of the way sit back, chew on a week-old rice cake and turn off every bass-less plastic teapot, frog, picnic basket and lion; here’s the skinny. I’ll just remove Iggle Piggle from the small of my back.
To paraphrase Shakespeare’s Othello “Rude am I in speech and little blessed with the soft phrase of peace but I can adapt a range of football chants to soothe babies and amuse Didsbury Son”.

In their short lives so far the twins have been on a range of flights, starting at 10 weeks with a trip to Spain. My real secret is to let Didsbury Wife plan and strategise, then do as I’m told. It works. But for those occasions I am in charge I have top tips for travel. (Although many originally began… Tell Didsbury Son to run after them, blame Didsbury Son, feign sleep or cry)

1. Ignore the naysayers. The reaction to taking the twins on a transatlantic flight varied from hushed shock to claims of madness. Flights are free (except for the ubiquitous and unfathomable airport taxes, £28 landing, £11 per crack in the pavement walked upon and £3 for each bottle of water you can’t take through customs otherwise WHSmith would be the new Woolworths. The price of the items too dangerous to take through customs is the first mugging of your holiday.) for the under twos so we worked out we were in the last few months of being able to afford a transatlantic trip unless the government re-direct all taxes to free child care. Did I digress?
Calpol, low expectations, a fixed smile and an apology on the tip of your tongue and bingo, travelling with toddlers is easy AND more easily navigatable than Jazz.

2. Forget your last pre-children visit anywhere. Then, you stayed in a boutique hotel at the heart of the party. You need accessible lifts, storage room, air conditioning, carpets that cushion a falling boddler and dark wallpaper that does not show crayon marks. As we lay in our trendy hotel a block from Miami’s biggest party listening to drum, bass and next door ‘s argument and inevitable, excruciating and thankfully brief reconciliation, I craved the bland open spaces and Multi-channelled impersonality of our Homewood Suites off the I-95.

3. If you drive, they will sleep. When you stop, they will wake. Plan your stops. You cannot pull in for a quick wee/coffee/snooze – it will rouse the team from the depths of sleep to the clingiest screech in seconds. A minor note in the States. I asked where the bed was in the restroom, bad move.

4. Occasionally, the crap snacks we all enjoy are okay to pass downwards. My two have X-Ray vision and bloodhound noses for crisps. Their joy at a bag opened in their direction offsets the middle-class shame at sharing salty treats.

5. Make sure there is a child-friendly pool

6. Make sure there is a child-friendly pool

7. Make sure there is a child-friendly pool. This is the only hope you have of staying on budget, getting a tan and having a permanent excuse to get away from strangers mistaking you laughing with your family, with having the slightest interest in talking to them and hearing about Indiana. I genuinely had someone ask if we knew Jane Platt.., from London. Of course we said yes before feigning the need for nappy changes all around.

8. Do not be lured in by American waiters feigning friendliness with your brood, it makes not leaving a tip afterwards more embarrassing.

9. Sing. Most people think the English are eccentric (and love Royalty – the planned wedding between Prince George and my Pearly-topped princess was well-received) and being able to change a nappy whilst singing and ordering drinks is the way to happy kids and personal space.

10. Plan ahead. It’s a holiday and the chances are high that you don’t have childcare. The lure of a late night Mojito, ice-cold beer or Hemlock can be strong and you may wake up feeling more woozy than usual. The heirs to your eczema lying next to you neither understand nor care and to avoid feeling seasick have the tools ready to buy you a little extra sleep.
IPad loaded with known games -14 minutes
YouTube nursery rhymes or CBeeBies programme – 19 minutes.
IPhone loaded -8 minutes
Dragon breath slur “sleepy time” – 36 seconds and a potential headbutt.
Bag of crisps and iPad 24 minutes* – the call is yours.

* times may vary dependent on nappy weight and contents

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Sago Mini – I love this more than I should, 15 minutes of relative peace

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Things I have learned – small children like aimlessly walking around paths – you can virtually sleepwalk

A Melancholic Meander through M20

There has been so much going on that I have had barely enough free time to make sure I avoid The Winter Olympics, Katie Hopkins and her male doppelgänger Nigel Farage. So as we welcome April, here is March in a moment.

1. A joke for people who watch CBeebies (cheaper than a nanny) in the morning. “My wife came downstairs and told me about a terrible nightmare she had. There was a mute called Claude, a weird grinning ageless woman who smiled but seemed sinister, the least convincing doctor in the world and a woman in a pink taxi who’s an advert for carjacking.” I looked at her stunned “Oh my word that’s uncanny” I said “Me Too”
This and a Jewish cartoon about a working farmyard called Schlepper Pig are what fills my head early morning.

2. The vivid green on The Crown has to have gone through a committee with the decision shouted down a bad line to a decorator with hearing impairment – doesn’t it?

3. The Turkish- Nido refit is impressive. We so want it work I was considering chanting outside. The Laughing Budda; now au in da is losing letters faster than a crime wave on Sesame Street – sort it out.

4. Didsbury welcomes Golden Beach Holidays and good luck. Replacing Co-Po travel means you have small shoes and average service to live up to. I used to enjoy going in to check exchange rates on days when I had not been tutted at enough. If business gets tough buy a coffee machine and a chair and mirror – it’s the default fallback in Didsbury.

5. When will The Strokers Arms re- open? Or is it a supermarket by stealth?

Does anyone else giggle at Brimelow’s insistence he is the original purple one. I think suntanned Oompah Loompah when I see that.

This is a bittersweet week. My inert little blobs are now bouncing, noisy, cat-grabbing, Didsbury Son loving, snack-snaffling people. This week they officially become toddlers – not babies. My only saving thought was that my Didsbury Mum still tells me I’m her baby.

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Boddlers – the hot new trend for 2014

2013, the magazines’ review of the year on Sunday was a depressing litany of global, regional and personal misery. Same pictures, different year. Not one mentioned the tragedy of Nido. In the few months it wheezed lifelessly in Didsbury Village, haemorrhaging cash at such a rate they may as well have offered free food and a Twenty to anyone who braved the restaurant formerly known as a successful kebab shop. Cameron – J’Accuse ( for no specific reason – just can’t trust someone who has no clear bone structure and admits to being a friend of George Osborne).

I have learned a lot this year. Mainly that you need your personal bubble away from the depressing interference of devices and reality. Mine is in Didsbury, surrounded by Didsbury Wife and my three wishes. Here is my précis.

1. Wording is vital with Didsbury Son. He is year 8, sliding inconsistently into teenage years and still as lovely as his 6 year old self ( most of the time). However, the combination of made up facts, half listened to and less than half understood rationale in most descriptions is almost worthy of its own exclamation mark *

* I have a personal mistrust of exclamation marks and find their use offensive.

2. I have become soppier than I ever imagined. I am now the softest touch ever for any story or charity. My donation to Middle-Class Children Without a PS4 was from the heart; I fill up every time Didsbury Wife dresses the twins in my club ‘s colours and I even noticed a tilty -headed smile at a newborn last week. It needs to be checked.

3. There is a sound worse than than the “pop’ of a dummy falling out of mouth into the dark. It is the sound of the Pearl-Headed girl when at 5am and she has woken. In stultified moves you have cooed, hummed and rocked. You hear breathing slow and feel moving still and then… Just as you relax into a dreamless, but essential hour’s sleep you hear “Hiya”. It snakes out of the darkness, heralding a further bout of hand-holding, soother moving, humming and rocking more draining than a Big Bang Theoryathon

3. Two charging boddlers** means Cafe Rouge is once again the retreat of choice as Cafe Nero’s spacious baby change, free babychinos and lovely staff are superseded by Rouge’s boddler friendly roominess and toy stash; although the bebechino is 50p

** the crossover between baby and toddler

4. There is nothing like a dame.

5. Didsbury Son’s knowledge of how to work anything with a screen now outstrips mine to such an extent I keep wanting to show him how a video recorder works.

6, Hipp Organics Vegetable Lasagne and Ravioli are perfect hangover cures or a watching the match snack.

7. The best way to alleviate the crushing tiredness is to have one baby on each knee and play ” this little piggy”. It’s cheaper than Red Bull and doesn’t have the aftertaste.

8. If you have shares in Boots you owe me a thank you at the very least. If you have shares in Co-Op you’ve been had.

9. I have lost the TV. It moves seamlessly from CBeebies to Star Wars / E4 American Sitcom. I know my place.

10. I am very lucky to be a Didsbury Dad.

Happy New to you all and may 2014 bring you health, happiness and if you desire it, wealth

Iggle Piggle v Homeland and Utopia

This much I know. In The Night Garden is possibly the finest television I have seen this year; edging out Homeland’s multi-story pile up and the beautiful crafting and colouring of Utopia by a short Nonk.
Derek Jacobi’s VoiceOver is worthy of forgiveness for that thing he shares with Gandalf on ITV, where Frances de la Tour plays a female, middle-class Keith Lemon.
ITNG, a flagship show on the mighty CBeebies could go prime time. If the unfathomable Deal or No Deal ( the whole open a box is Key Stage 1 motor control) is an 8pm show then why not “At Home with the Pontypines”. 8 kids, living next door to their twins who also have 8 kids – more enticing than Celebrity Big Brother and genuinely mind-bending.
How about a Top Gear Special on Ninky Nonk v Pinky Ponk? We are a Ninky family but there is something about the Pinky Ponk’s wheezing beauty that draws you in. I was granted access to the cast to find out their take on being part of this QI for the pre-lingual.

Part. 1:
Iggle Piggle in his own words. Iggle rarely gives interviews and is known offscreen for his thoughtful poetry and landscape watercolours.

“Once the blankey comes down, the light goes on and the music starts you have a lot of time on your own to think. It’s just you and a rolling sea. There’s no one running circles around my palms and until I get through the hedge it’s a lonely journey. The guys are great and I think I could sail there in my sleep, but… Sometimes not even a smile and a kiss from Upsy Daisy can make up for that commute. Me? I know one day it will end. Only Postman Pat and Bob the Builder seem to go on forever and they have a trade. Glee are interested in a spin-off of the Blankey dance but they think Sky Blue’s a weak colour so we are in discussion. I’m not bleaching for anyone.

The best thing? Good question. I don’t think you ever get over being a role model for the Holophrastic Babblers. It’s a gift.

Family Planning v Forward Planning

Didsbury Son, year 7 and therefore the font of sound bite malapropisms and mistruths, is going on a school trip next week. He has five days in France and the potential for calamity with two dozen pre-pubescent Kevin &. Perry know-nothings is sick. Like y’know basically, sorta, kinda massive.
Five days and although I’ll miss him, it will be in a dad way. The odd shrug, no one to blame for anything and having to go upstairs to get the things I have left there by myself.

Up to five months ago I would have been anxiously trying not to overplay my excitement at having no parental duties for fear of incurring maternal guilt and separation wrath; it is very powerful. This time, I assumed would be Yin and Yang. The yin of the not picking anything off the floor or having to watch Top Gear versus the Yang of a distraught mother whose only solace to assuage the heartache can be found at John Lewis. The yin wins but…

I had not thought this through. Now there are baby twins. Five months old, beautiful, smiling bundles of happiness. Squealing, laughing, dribbling, nappy-filling time thieves. The hours I spend gazing, gurgling, stroking and sniffing them uses up all my non-work non sterilising time. Their arrival has taken Didsbury Wife from proud protective mother to being a lioness of the Focaccia Velt where we live.

Now I have five days of Didsbury Wife worrying about Didsbury Son and I have no one to make stupid jokes about the babies with. No one to laugh when I dress them upside down or waft their fruitier nappies like a pomander. Most worryingly, no one to keep an eye on them during my shift when I need to make a brew/have a wee or look in the mirror to stare at the 50 Shades of Grey under my eyes.

I am left to pray for specific help. I hope it warms up. I wince at the thought of turning on the news to see Didsbury Son waving from the top of the Eiffel Tower and more than all this – please let delicate baby girl and The Mighty Headed Baby Boy gives up the hourly fight and sleep between News at Ten and CBeebies.

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Talk to the head because the hand ain’t listening. It’s just us three and Wibbly Pig for the next five days.

Timmy Time, Ziggy Marley and the power of CBeebies

What do you call a parent who never uses TV as a filler whilst taking 5 to make a brew, go for a wee or  count lines and grey hairs?
You don’t.
They are either lying or they are the kind of uber-organised automaton that can do Year 7 maths homework without flinching and has never popped a dummy in their mouth to clean it. (Sshh, that’s just between us. )

Didsbury Son is hooked on Cartoon Network and Adventure Time, the Adventures of Gumball and The Regular Show. I silently pine for the times we would curl up to watch The Simpsons. I snipe at the cartoons whilst secretly enjoying their absurdist dreamlike core.

What Timmy might look like if he was real

What Timmy might look like if he was real

I was influenced by Scooby Doo, a scared Great Dane who ate processed garbage fed to him by his stoned owner. They held long conversations and the stoner dressed poor Scooby in a range of inappropriate outfits and put him in danger. I believe my love of Scooby and his deformed nephew Scrappy negates any option I may have to pass comment on Didsbury Son’s mesmeric viewing. He has inherited the male gene to stare endlessly, without judgement at anything animated or non-educational. Take a bow men, Lord Reith, I blame you for not inventing Ren & Stimpy earlier.

This staring gene is universal. The twins love a bit of CBeeBies. They may only be 5 months old but Smiley girl chuckles along to the odd programme whilst preferring staring at the light out of the window and The Mighty-Headed boy (60% head, 100% Didsbury) can zone out for a good half hour (  the baby equivalent of a whole day spent in bed watching Big Bang Theory or Lovejoy).

I am concerned. CBeeBies projects a world which worries me on many fronts. Take Mike The Knight, he is an idiot. On the one hand he always realises he has been a fool and that the dragons/trolls/his sister/anything else was right. On the other, his portrayal of feudal patronage, animal cruelty and a male-dominated society where women merely cook and clean is one that gives my baby boy false expectations; and the voice is so annoying I pray the dragons will get fed up and eat him.

CBeebies documentary about swans held in prison without trial in Cheshire really struck a chord

CBeebies documentary about swans held in prison without trial in Cheshire really struck a chord

Postman Pat has to be 80. I know the post office has made cuts but surely someone should relieve him. It’s the saddest documentary I have ever seen. His only companion is a stuffed cat he thinks is real and the sap in the local train station keeps giving him work, he keeps getting it wrong. Richard Branson, Adam Crozier – sort out your staff.
Where is Tilly’s parent/guardian? She hangs out with an elephant, a pig, a chicken and a crocodile. Where do Child Services think they are up to? If the elephant doesn’t crush her then pain awaits. This is not Life of Pi. and she is only six years old. The pig and chicken are gonners. RIP Porky and Licken but please, someone – save her. Pingu. You make Iggle Piggle seem like Stephen Fry.
These are the tip of a very tall iceberg. The Octonauts flout the Laws of Physics and Bernard Cribbins thinks he is called Jack and talks to a glove. At times it is heartbreaking.
There is a saving grace. A very beautiful saving grace, Timmy. Timmy is a little lamb with a lot inside and I, smiley baby girl and deep thinking baby boy love him. Even Didsbury Son loves Timmy and Didsbury Wife and I have given up Moussaka. Timmy is the son of Shaun the Sheep. I’m not sure who his mother is but I don’t think it’s the one who tried to kill Shaun for having the wrong trousers. Timmy is a ram amongst lambs, an organic fillet amid horsemeat fillings, a Babe the pig sheep in the farmyard. Timmy and his little friends have innocent fun and wipe away the sour taste that the rudderless Tilly and the tiresome Mike the Knight leave in the mouths of my innocent babies.

Timmy, It's Timmy. He's a little lamb with a lot inside - but not served with tzatziki in this house

Timmy, It’s Timmy. He’s a little lamb with a lot inside – but not served with tzatziki in this house

Thomas, stay in your train garage – you are not welcome here. This house dances to the rhythm of Rastamouse, 3rd and Bird (particularly the Ziggy Marley episode) and the glorious Timmy Time.

 

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