The Lost Carnival, Crewe

May bank holiday weekend is one of the best of the year. Firstly, it’s my birthday. Secondly, there’s always good stuff going on. Last year we went to Geronimo festival. And this year the super team at Wild Rumpus invited us along to the second ever Lost Carnival*, which this year was in Crewe.


Even before you get to the carnival, there are stories, podcasts and videos on their website to get you into the story of two rival carnival troupes, descending on Crewe to fight for survival — but is all as it seems? There was even a Charleston-style dance routine to learn, if you so wished.


We rocked up at 5pm, still enjoying the remnants of a glorious sunny spring day. From the start, the vibe was quirky, Victorian, a little creepy. We were surprised by people’s commitment to dressing up, adults and kids. Crewe’s steampunk scene is thriving!

Before we got there we were worried that the whole thing would be too creepy for the kids, but it was just right. We chose to side with the bright, energetic Ingenue carnival, rather than the mysterious Birds — though two of us had defected by the end of the evening.


The grounds were lovely and green, and nicely enclosed by trees. The whole thing was split into Ingenue and Bird sides. There were two craft big tops, little circus tents housing, among other things, a levitating wonder, a tattooed lady, and a temporary tattoo parlour.

Every hour we were beckoned to the main stage for a showdown between representatives of the two troupes. 5pm saw a standoff between two jugglers, which incorporated a hair-raising ‘walk of death’ with daggers. 6pm was an acrobatic clash. 7pm was time for the dance off, and 8pm a contest between the Ingenues’ Clare V’oyant (get it?) and the Birds’ magician, Max Mager.


The Bookworm getting a dance lesson from two Ingenues and a Bird.

In between there were periodic performances all over the grounds. My favourite was Max Calaf Seve, from Spain, whose trampoline act was theatrical, physically impressive and genuinely funny.


Max Calaf Seve losing his trousers…


…and finding them again.

Sarah and the kids loved Pif-Paf, an acrobatic trio making exceptional use of a rotating 15-foot rotating metal wheel.


Both of the children were transfixed for the whole half hour (which is no small thing for a six- and two-year-old). The Bookworm has been trying out her own acrobatic routine ever since, including some hair-raising stunts on a climbing frame.

We all loved Voodoo Love Orchestra, who roamed the whole site performing joyous latin-inspired brass music, before playing a set from the stage. The Chap got a shout out for his truly individual dance moves.


As well as being mega-talented, all of the performers — each commissioned individually by Wild Rumpus — did a great job of staying in role throughout the evening, making the magic and rivalry all the more real for the kids.

In her review, the wonderful Geekmummy wrote about how safe, comfortable and relaxed the whole event felt, and she’s spot on. It was a really chilled evening. Sitting in the evening sun, watching our kids snuggle up and enjoy Pif-Paf, bellies full of pizza, chips and brisket — it was a beautiful thing.


Can’t wait to see what they do next year.

And you can catch Wild Rumpus at Macclesfield’s Barnaby Festival this June (17th–26th) and the Just So Festival at Rode Hall (19th–21st August).

* we got free tickets — all views are our own, natch.

What did you get up to on your bank holiday weekend? Did anyone else head to The Lost Carnival? Let us know in the comments.



Quesadillas and carnival!

Hello there. It’s been a while, and a few things have happened.

For example, I got a year older yesterday.

Our actually amazing friends picked up our kids from school and nursery, and had them all night. So Sarah and I got to spend a lush day in Manchester — complete with great Mexican food (and tequila) at Wahaca.


Then we got back to Chester to hang out together like those adults without kids — you’ve heard about those guys, right? — playing ping pong and board games in nice bars.

Kids now retrieved, and we’re getting revved up to head to the Lost Carnival tonight.

lost carnival

It looks mega stylish and Victorian, and a little dark. The Bookworm is super excited.

The guys at Wild Rumpus were kind enough to hook us up with some free tickets. As well as the carnival itself, there’s a load of images, videos and background to help you get into the story. There’s even a dance routine to learn — though Sarah and I are struggling to get the hang of it, even with our years weeks of Charleston lessons.

More to come!




The Real Junk Food Project – Chester invites you to its first pop-up event

Great things happening in Chester #hatefoodwaste

Ellie and Galina will be cooking with food that they have procured from major Chester supermarkets. This food would otherwise have gone to waste. Thanks to the young entrepreneurs’ kitchen savviness, it will instead be given a chance to make its debut on your plate.

So come to Wesley Methodist Church’s Cafe at 8 St.John Street, CH1 1DA in Chester city centre on Friday. Doors open at 4:30 PM and close at 6:30 PM.

Meet Ellie, Galina and their families. Tell Andrew Herbert and the Reverend Neil Stacey how thankful you are to have a hot meal and good company on the first evening of the Easter holiday. Have a chat with Councillor Alex Black and Lady Janet Black, who will be gracing the event. Last but not least, donor stores’ representatives will be there to taste the fruit of their good deed of the day, so make…

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On work, quad biking and tonsillitis

I’m writing from a soft play, in the midst of a six-year-old’s birthday party. I have positioned myself far from the other adults, looking as unapproachable as possible. I have severe tonsillitis, for which I’m taking antibiotics.

The Bookworm is somewhere on the soft play, and I’m sure she’s perfectly fine.

So 2016, how’s it going for you?

Christmas was long ago. Ours was ace. We didn’t do the whole travelling up and down the country thing this time. Being based in Chester our travel time to in-laws and my parents has increased. We have to trek to Northumberland and Norfolk to get to see these lovely folk. Instead, we caught up with my parents during December at the Center Parcs in Cumbria. Again, fairly controversial but we took the Bookworm out of school the week before the Christmas break up. The price for a four day midweek break almost triples as soon as it hits the school holidays, so with all considered we felt it was worth it. On average the kids get to see my parents two or three times a year, so every occasion counts.

We had an ace time. The Chap loved the pool for a few reasons:

  1. There were buckets and watering cans
  2. It was super warm
  3. He got to eat chips by the pool in his swimwear

Adam and I went quad biking. I surprised myself with the speed junkie performance I gave. The track was fast, dirty and bumpy. The girl in front of me rolled her bike on top of her, thankfully she was okay.

Adam and I had our annual Aqua Sauna experience. The Twilight Spa package. You get five hours exploring the 11 different experiences. Outdoor swimming in December is always a highlight. We vow after every visit to eat cleaner, exercise more and take better care of ourselves. Hmm…

Adam went with the kids from Center Parcs across the country to Northumberland, to his hometown. The kids love visiting grandma and grandad. There are treats galore and a beach within view of the house,  which they insist on going to despite the weather. I had work for the rest of the week up until Christmas Eve.

Oh and that’s a thing, work. I’ve said farewell to my four-day-a-week pattern and hello to the standard five days and week 9-5. I’m 28 and have avoided the full time pattern thus far so I should be incredibly grateful. I feel like I now understand that whole living-for-the-weekend attitude.

A week is so long and I miss the Chap. He is loving his increased time with Daddy though. The Chap gets three days a week with Daddy and two days in lovely (but expensive) nursery. This is half of the reason for the decline in blogging of late.

After sitting at a screen all day, my desire to come home and do the same has understandably diminished. I’m hoping once Adam’s business (Penfold Content) is more established that I may have the delight of a part time setup again.

But back to Christmas – my favourite Christmas present were an awesome jumper from RAD, my FitBit and a Lumie lamp.

The lamp really works for me. You set it to create a sunrise. Over the course of half and hour, the lamp gradually illuminates, dragging you gently into consciousness.


No ghastly sounding alarms here anymore. Though it doesn’t seem to have had the same rousing effect on Adam so far.

It also has a 30 minute sunset mode which is good for Bookworm to try and wind down to.

My Fitbit made me fully realise how many few steps I do each day. Since January 10th I have been walking the 35 minute journey from my office to my house. This is the only way I’m anywhere near the reconmmended 10,000 steps a day. I haven’t jogged since I did the 5K back in the summer. As the weather fell into autumnal rains, I decided to use that as fitting excuse to put the jogging gear to the back of the wardrobe for a while.

If I were to pick it up again, I’d be back to square one (and back to week one of the couch to 5K podcast), but in a slightly better mental place as I know have already achieved this fitness once before, so it is entirely possible.

It’s been to good to catch up. But if you’ll excuse me, there’s a random toddler poking me, and our particular gaggle of children is being called in to their nuggets and chips.

Have a good week.

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A day out at Paradise Island Adventure Golf

It’s that weird time between Christmas and New Year, and the weather is a bit rubbish. We braved the beach in gale force winds on boxing day (a Kirkup family tradition). We’ve taken a long walk up a hill, made a LEGO Rapunzel tower and even attempted tidying.

Golf 1

So when Paradise Island Adventure Golf asked if we wanted to come and check out their new venue – for free! – we jumped at the chance. And we brought some friends along for the fun.

Their new course – two courses, in fact – are based at the Coliseum in Ellesmere Port, right next to Cheshire Oaks retail park. Apparently the building used to be a nightclub, but now it’s full of huge model monkeys, sharks and scuba divers.

We did 18 holes on their Lazy Lagoon course which starts, or so they tell us, in a Moroccan bazaar and continues on through an Indian jungle and culminates on a desert island. There are plenty of decorative elements around the place which added a bit of interest for the kiddos.

Golf 2

Most of the holes are pretty straightforward, though Daddy still managed to lose in spectacular fashion. Luckily our good friends Rosie and Dave were on hand to show the kids how to actually hit a golf ball.

Some of the more interesting holes had tunnels to shoot the ball through, with sensors and noises. The Chap got a special, hockey-stick-like club which would probably have made things a lot easier for him if he hadn’t have insisted on using his sister’s.

It definitely wasn’t the most taxing mini golf course we’ve done, though it was good for The Bookworm, who bagged a couple of hole-in-ones.

For four adults and two kids (one under five and one over) it would have cost us £36, which seems a little steep. As it was, we had a fun time with our friends and managed to avoid the weather for a while.

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My first 5k.

I did it. I ran 5k.


After 11 weeks doing the Couch to 5k podcast I have succeeded. I did my first 5K  run in the most beautiful of settings with an initiative called Parkrun. The one nearest us is based at Delemere Forest every Saturday at 9 am. There were about 200 of us and it was a glorious day.

There were people of all shapes and sizes. People with dogs, families with kids, professional running club people, middle age super fit couples, and there was us. Adam and me plus our friends, another married couple who had never done it before. The atmosphere was exciting. All the stewards are volunteers and did an amazing job at cheering people on and explaining the guidelines.

It’s very simple. Before you go to the run you sign up on the website and enter your info. You then get a unique reference number and print out a barcode with the reference on. You run with your barcode (in your pocket) and then get it scanned at the end so you know your time. This then goes on the website and if you really love it you can try and improve week on week or try Parkruns all over the country. It didn’t feel like an horrendous super competitive race. It was explained that every goes at their own pace and even though there a finish line, it’s more about beating your own records. We first-timers even got a special round of applause from the other runners.

The difference of being surrounded by runners and other joggers of all levels was encouraging. Training on my own has been a bit of a slog recently. But being among others was exactly what I needed to provide me with motivation for it all again. I started off slow, aware this was my first attempt at a full 5k. I had done 4.5k quite a few time but this course was actually 5.2k. I have always struggled to know exactly what my pace is or what I should be aiming for.  The Couch to 5k podcast doesn’t track your pace, so I have now switched to Nike Running which provides a lot more analysis.

I was five minutes in and feeling good. I was following a lady for while, and in my head she had become my pacemaker. However, hubby was out of sight already and I needed to speed up a lot more to catch him. The course was a little tricky as there were no markers to tell you how far through you were. I’m terrible at estimating distance. I sped up and kept at a steady pace. This happneed to be the pace of young couple. He was checking his hi-tech watch and telling her what pace they needed to go at. I felt like this was also a great pace for me. So that’s how I did it. I didn’t stop. I jogged my little socks off the entire way.

I was very proud. My final time was 33 mins. Nothing to shout about in professional terms but I couldn’t been happier. Hubby, who had not trained, eats what he likes and only bought trainers the day before to do it in, got 28 mins. Damn him, being a natural athlete, academic, cook and musician.

Anyway, this was two weeks ago now. I have run four times since but not done a full 5k. However, I have been working on my pace. My friends joked that the next thing would be a half marathon in May. This seems like a step too far but there is a part of me that’s tempted to look into 10k runs in the area.

Has anyone else had experience of going from 5k to 10? Is there anything I should be working on in particular? How gradually should I be in increasing my distance?

Any advice would be much appreciated. Let me know in the comments!