Archive for the ‘Kids’ stuff’ Category

A Crystal Ball

Thursday, January 31st, 2013

Well, perhaps it’s over-egging it a bit to say I had ‘a ball.’ But given that there was a small child to entertain, it was a bloomin’ awful day, we’d ‘done’ Greenwich and there wasn’t enough time to go into town, a trip across the water to a free exhibition in the dry – with nice cakes – seems like a bit of a result.

I’m always slightly suspicious when a giant multinational that depends on consumer – well, consumption, actually, creates a ‘sustainable cities initiative’ and then spends vast wads of cash giving us the patronising ‘we need to talk about saving energy by not doing stuff’ message (I’m assuming the ‘not doing stuff’ doesn’t extend to not buying their goods…) but as propaganda goes, this is pretty slick.

The building itself is a handsome glass affair in an area that has very little else going on, right next to the cable car, the first, I am hoping, in a new rush of interesting attractions worth making the trip across the river for.

We went on a Saturday, and even on a traditionally ‘family’ day, most of the visitors seemed to be group bookings; brownies, I believe, and students. I should imagine that during the week it’s wall-to-wall school parties. There’s plenty to do, lots of buttons to press and games to play – someone has spent a lot of time and money making some very good exhibits, and it’s so new that nearly all of them still work (I was in the Maritime Museum the other day and several of their interactive displays are already broken. But then they don’t have Siemens funding them…)

And there IS much to think about. My favourite part was the bits where you’re getting to plan a virtual city, you’re given various constraints, a budget and a list of transport, energy, education etc. options and told to get on with running it. As Phantom Monarch I tried quite a few ways to put in infrastructure, take infrastructure out, add more roads, remove roads, give my subjects more public transport, less waste disposal etc. and every time I watched my city implode under the strain.

Some of it’s just plain baffling. I can’t remember what on earth this giant Chinese lantern represents, and I’m not sure I ever knew, though it’s possible it’s just covering the exterior of the cinema. Other things are pretty but again, I couldn’t tell you what they mean:

There’s a quite alarming film about global energy use (why did I find myself wondering that we would save a load of energy if we just turned off all the giant 360 degree movies about climate change..?) and some rather wonderful sections about the body.

In short, there is much to do, much to see, and if it doesn’t sit quite right that this is all funded by a multinational who are as busy plundering the earth for rare metals, gases, energy etc. as any other computer/white goods giant, then hey – we all sucked up that MacDonalds and Cadburys sponsored the Olympics last year. And Boris approves. This is pride of place in the City section:

Ultimately the result was one small child entertained for an hour on a wet day, and I find that hard to knock.

The thing I like most about this place, though, and something I will be returning to, is the splendid cafe.

Good food, nicely presented

with prices no worse than anywhere else in London, and actually, IMHO, very good for a London attraction:

I can see myself taking a cable car across the water just for the hell of it (and a cup of coffee at the Crystal). I delight in being the unfashionable Phantom that adores the cable car – of course it’s daft, but oh, I love it. Even I, though, raised an eyebrow at this particular display in the City part of the exhibition:

Hmm.

Wet Day Witches

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Celia Berridge is clearly a successful illustrator and artist. If she is the same one I keep finding on the internet she illustrated the Postman Pat series and the Rosie and Jim books, and there are dozens of children’s volumes she’s illustrated listed on the internet, but I can find very little out about her.

In fact the most I can find out about her is inside the jacket-flap of her Greenwich-based 1976 story Wet Day Witches (Andre Deutsch) which, it would seem, she wrote very early on in her career, as there are only two other books listed as by her on the cover itself.

She was definitely living in Greenwich, with her husband and two young children, at the time she wrote Wet Day Witches and before becoming an illustrator, taught in primary schools in Deptford and Bermondsey. And that’s pretty much where I run out of information. But I’m guessing there will be local residents who either know her – or local illustrators who know her work. I’d be curious to learn more about her – not least that I’m willing to bet she was a regular at the Greenwich Book Boat.

But onto the story. It’s a simple picture book about a Greenwich brother and sister stuck indoors because it’s raining. Spying a big box of dressing up clothes, they decide to play at witches. Sally becomes the Green Witch of Greenwich:

while Ben goes for the Black witch of Blackheath:

I suppose at this point I’d better issue a SPOILER ALERT (well, you never know…)

In their imaginations they take it in turns to do terrible things to the people up on Blackheath, turning it into a jungle, so the people and the A2 traffic all gets stuck in the greenery, set magical fire to it so it’s all black and burnt, cover it with plagues of flies and bugs, turn the flies into slugs and toads, cover the people in green slime, and finally give them a coating of black treacle.

Perhaps unsurprisingly the good burghers of Greenwich and Blackheath get a bit fed up of being the butt of the witches’ feud and chase them across the heath. The naughty witches only just manage to scramble over the wall into Greenwich Park, at which point a rather annoyed Dad comes in and finds the house turned upside down.

What I like most about this simple tale is the very Greenwich-ness of it. Of course it works for children anywhere – it’s not so very specific that it’s exclusive to South East London – but if you know what you’re reading there are all sorts of little visual gags that only someone who actually lived here could create. The grim-old traffic on the A2. The silhouette of Blackheath church. The little corner of Greenwich Park wall.

For some reason it’s incredibly hard to find second hand (obviously it’s been out of print for yonks). I guess people don’t tend to keep children’s books and even if they do, they’ve often seen a fair amount of wear. Amazon’s cheapest copy is £62 and all Abebboks can offer is a $40 version from the States. I suspect the best hope of finding a copy is in local charity shops. Presumably more copies were sold around here than other places; you might be lucky…

In the meanwhile, I’d love to know more about Celia Berridge.

Of Captains and Ships and Poohs and Sticks

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Jules asks:

“Any idea whether Captain Cook’s statue is coming back?”

on a similar theme, Sunny asks:

“Do you know what happened to the Pirate Ship which used to be at the back of the Maritime Museum? Obviously it has been moved while the new building goes up, but wondered if there were any plans to return or relocate it…

I had heard a rumour of its being moved to the East Greenwich Pleasaunce, but no sightings so far.

My children far preferred this to the overcrowded and increasingly toddler-centric play area near the boating lake, and we are all very sad that it appears to have been sunk.”

The Phantom replies:

Well, folks, I’m afraid I have a bit of a ‘hooray / boo’ answer for you.  Jenny tells me:

“The Cook statue is returning, roughly to the spot it was in before. I don’t have an exact date for it’s re-erection (resurrection?) but am told that the base has been laid already.

The pirate ship is unfortunately gone for good. We couldn’t give it to the East Greenwich Pleasaunce as it was no longer health and safety compliant. The landscaping outside the new wing will feature a lovely rill though where we hope things like poohsticks will be played. I’ll be firing some paper boats down it at the first opportunity.”

I’m sure ye pirates of olden days would have made Health & Safety officers walk the plank, but sadly these times decree that there will be no ships ahoy in the old sailor’s cemetery just yet.

Pooh sticks though. Now you’re talking…


Pram Botherer

Wednesday, March 30th, 2011

I’ve been humming and haa-ing over whether to respond to this on the blog or not as I have a feeling it could polarise and turn into an unsightly slanging match. But hey, in for a penny…

Barbara says:

“As a fairly recent pram botherer, I lost the luxury of lazy evenings to peruse your site and enjoy the local gossip, political updates [mostly dodgy council decisions]; and most missed, cultural goings on [sleep deprivation & the going rate for a babysitter will do dreadful things to your desire to get out and about in the evenings]. Suffice to say, after 8 months at home I’m about to rejoin the working world and as I’ve recently employed a nanny as part of a nanny share arrangement, I thought I would check out your site for local recommendations for activities for her and the two children.

I was disappointed not to find any section dealing with recommendations from local mums for things to do and places to avoid, but mostly I was pretty disappointed to be dismissed as a “pram botherer” clogging up the local cafes with the selfish positioning of my pram, presumably causation of lengthy queues for the disabled loo’s and general noise pollution. It’s typical of the English attitude which bizarrely seems to detest children.Thankfully most local cafes are staffed by obliging and welcoming continentals who are quite happy to advise if we are inadvertently being an inconvenience.

I have to admit being from a large family I am more immune than most to the noisy protestations of the munchkin population but by and large I find that most locals and definitely all tourists and local proprietors are happy to share their space with Mums, Dads,offspring and their friends. I think if you surveyed most local businesses you would find that they depend on such passing trade during their dead periods to survive. We tend not to hang about in the cafe/bars in the early evenings [worse luck] and we’re generally on the road, hanging out for a strong coffee and some adult conversation by 9.30 when most locals are either at work in the City or just arriving at their place of work with a break later in the morning. If we overstay our welcome it’s generally due to difficulty in predicting exactly what’s next with a vomiting/hungry/cold/bored/ midget Greenwichian. Pram positioning is generally to avoid the screams of a “where is Mum” midget rather than maximising passing space [within reason obv.] Apologies for any vertically challenged locals if the use of midget to describe my short and very vocal offspring offends.

Unlike most “pram botherers” I am not of the “it’s the best thing that ever happened to me’ variety but I have to say that after 5 yrs in the Borough, living here for the past 8 months on Maternity leave has given me a new perspective, appreciation and love of the area. I’ve criss-crossed the park daily, haunted the museum (not just for Paul), explored the smaller local green spaces and kiddy services [mostly under threat of closure due to funding], and frankly spent most of the winter clogging up the cafe’s drinking coffee, and breastfeeding somewhere with central heating and decent coffee for which I will make no apology.

Anyway – back to the coalface. It would be amazingly useful and informative if you had a section for local kiddies goings on, especially as so many places and local jobs are dependent on local government funding. From April, the guys can start to take more significant paternity leave too which will add an interesting dynamic I expect.

As ever, I enjoy your site and postings. Just would appreciate not being blacklisted for choosing to add to the local population and not immediately relocate to somewhere more welcoming.”

The Phantom replies:

I’m pretty sure I never used a phrase as inelegant as ‘pram botherer,’ but I have to confess that as a non-child-owner,  I do tend to head for places that don’t have large concentrations of prams and pushchairs, if only because it can be quite intimidating for someone on their own to be surrounded by a sea of buggies (if you want to know what I mean, try Paul of a weekday afternoon). I have been in places where I am the only character in the shop without a small person and, whether true or not, my paranoia convinced me everyone was looking at me as though the lone weirdo in the corner was eyeing up their child for potential grooming later.

Yes, I do prefer somewhere where it’s a bit quieter, surely that’s not such a terrible thing to ask for. You yourself say your youngster is ‘very vocal.’ But I don’t expect every venue to be Phantom-friendly (just one or two will do me, and, frankly, that’s all there is) and realise that, especially during the day, you’re right, Barbara – even with the rise of flexi-time, the majority of custom for most cafes during the day will be parental, much, I’m sure, as it has ever been.

I think of seeking out quiet places as being my choice – just as its the choice of parents to enjoy a coffee where they want to be, and it’s totally understandable that they would want to be with other parents. Personally I have no problem with the odd pushchair or pram in a place, one or two children can brighten up a place; for me the issues arise when there’s a whole army of them – and some of those buggies these days – well you can buy cars smaller, I’ll swear.

Greenwich is a fantastic place for children – there’s loads to do,  loads of places to play and it’s a generally safe area.When I first started the blog I did consider adding a ‘things to do for kids’ tab at the top, alongside the Parish News/bookshelf/weddings etc, even though it really isn’t my area. And if Phantomising was my job, it would definitely be there. But the sheer amount of time something like that takes (you may have noticed that not a single one of those tabs at the top is complete) is frankly prohibitive. It’s not just typing in the info, it’s finding out about the stuff, and borrowing a kid to check  places out (which yes, I have been known to do – singing The Wheels on the Bus in the library playgroup on your own will have you carted down the local nick.)

Maybe I should do it as some kind of wiki (as I have been tempted to do with the Parish News which I’m always behind on – I truly don’t know how Ianvisits does it.) But this is a personal blog and time is (very) limited. I find myself sticking to things that I have at least a passing knowledge on rather than venturing into the true unknown.

But what do other people think? Should I do a kid’s section? Perhaps  a Kid-O-Meter on cafe/restaurant reviews – with some kind of sliding scale as with  Phantom-Friendly at number 1 and Child-Friendly at number 10?

Paul

Wednesday, May 20th, 2009

Mezzanine Level, National Maritime Museum

Last week I promised Pram-o-philes somewhere where you can easily manoeuvre a pushchair, meet up with other parents and spread out, knowing your little bundle of joy is absolutely safe. And here it is. Despite its being on the first floor, Paul at the NMM is a parent’s paradise.

The mezzanine is a wide, virtually empty area that for some time has puzzled me as to its purpose, its exhibit-to-available-space ratio being – well – sparse.

But whatever the failure to put much to actually look at in this part of the museum, this area provides a perfect spread-out space for your entire post-natal group to ascend the great glass elevator and meet, whatever the weather, in a bright, dry environment with halfway decent coffee, slightly overpriced sweet-treats and no sharp edges.

Service on the day I went was, frankly, hap-hazard, probably a combination of busy-ness and, perhaps, a bit of a language issue. I had a cup of coffee, which they got right second time around, and a half-warmed-through quiche which tasted perfectly fine if a little undecided as to whether or not it should have been reheated. Although this is Paul, and therefore never generally a bad option, the very fact that the chain seems to be becoming as ubiquitous as Starbucks has seen service slip since the cafe’s finding its way to our shores.

I was the sole lone-customer on the day I went. There was one other group – some bemused French tourists – but everyone else seemed to be part of one of several baby/toddler get-togethers. I wondered whether by the end of the day, they would have formed one huge posse, but I confess that it was all a little bit much for me (besides – staying would have run the risk of my looking like some dodgy pervert hanging round. It’s the cloak and mask that does it…) – I finished my coffee and left the small people to explore the further reaches of Fluffy Rug Land.

So – not one for pram-o-phobes (especially since the glass roof’s acoustics are perfect scream-o-conductors…) But if you have lots of pushchair pals, a wriggly two year-old and the desire for not-bad-coffee, this is a fine destination.

Holiday Geology

Saturday, November 15th, 2008

While I was going through my bookshelf, cataloguing it for the new page, a piece of folded card fell out which I’d totally forgotten about, but which, for its size, is a remarkable find.

Called, fairly unexcitingly, Holiday Geology Guide- Greenwich, it looks as though it’s a children’s thing – and yes, I guess it is intended for kids. The dinosaurs on the front, champing their way through primordial undergrowth where the Observatory is now, leaving a little gap for the Meridian line and with the ORNC and Canary Wharf in the background, are very kiddie-ish – but if you look on the back, they’re all genuine possible previous inhabitants of Greenwich (no gags, now, about where the dinosaurs reside today, eh?)

If you fold it out, there’s a sort of 3D-in-2D cut-through map of Greenwich from a couple of angles, showing what’s underneath it, geology-wise, how and when it was made and highlighting the really interesting bits, the best of which has to be the Greenwich Fault Line, created, apparently, at the same time as the Alps. How cool is that?

Even better, there are little notes on each of the main stone buildings memorials and other features, which tell you where the materials for each come from, including good stuff to look out for (little fossils, for example – snails, sea-lilies, corals, squid – or bits of them at least.)

The back pages continue the theme with photos, graphs and text, all actually interesting.

This is a single sheet of A3 card. But the information it holds punches well above its weight. I’ve included a widget for it from Amazon, because I’ve just learned how to do it, but it’s not the best place to buy it unless you have an order over ten quid. I got mine from the Visitor Centre, and it works out cheaper if you can drop by.

Children’s Parties

Tuesday, October 21st, 2008

Sam asks:

“Do you know any good venues for a kid’s party?
We have tried The Forum (too small) and Shrewsbury House (bit out of the way and only available in the afternoons)We need to fit 60+ in the venue.”

The Phantom replies:

The very thought of 60+ children in one room chills me to the very bones, Sam – you’re a brave woman indeed. But this is also a timely reminder that my Phantom Shindigs page is a little light on the old Kiddies Parties. and could definitely use some expansion.

My first suggestion, the Secret Garden Wildlife Centre in Greenwich Park, is out because of numbers, but Mycenae House might just do you. I’ve also been thinking about Greenwich West Community Centre , which I believe is bigger than the Forum.

But I’m not well-up on children’s party venues and would welcome additions to the page so please chime-in if you have any great ideas.

Good luck with that one, Sam; let me know how you get on. In the meanwhile, I believe ear-plugs are available in most good pharmacies…

Monsters Of The Deep.

Monday, October 13th, 2008

I know this looks like the world’s crappiest photo – and yes, I guess it nearly is – except that I took three more that were all worse than this. There is a reason for it though, honest…

I don’t often go off-topic and write about things other than Greenwich – and even if I do, they usually have a Greenwich theme or are great ‘days out.’ I have no real excuse for including this other than it’s fantastic, Thames-ish and there’s only a week left of it. And since our trains go there, and lots of people work around London Bridge, I’m sort-of counting it as a Lovely Thing to see on your way home…

Drift is the first annual art exhibition on the Thames – large-scale projects free for all to view. It’s been on a couple of weeks but I hadn’t been wildly impressed with most of the exhibits I’d seen up to Friday. They weren’t bad art (there is a lot of Bad Art about), just not exciting. There was a shiny wavery board floating by the Millennium Bridge, and some sounds played on the bridge (when I was there, the ‘seagulls’ meant to “disorientate passers-by” were drowned out by the real thing. Now if there had been cows mooing and pastural sounds of goatherds yodelling through the mountains – now then I’d have been disoriented..) a decorated buoy and a rather nice, but slightly promising-more-than-it-delivered laser ‘bridge’ reaching across those ghost piers by the modern Blackfriars one. I liked it all well enough but not enough to break Greenwich rank and write about it.

That was before I saw the monsters.

Walk to the north end of London Bridge and look over the western edge at dusk. I got there around 6.30pm and it was a bit early, the sun wasn’t quite down yet, but I like to think that part of the art is staring into the murk and thinking you can see sea monsters.

As it gets darker, a series of projectors start to show CGI mythical creatures of the deep swimming around ‘under’ the water, diving, coming to the surface, intertwining with each other, racing each other, then disappearing down again. Then the water goes black again before – yes – is that a fin? Oh – no. It went down again. But – hey – there’s another. Look – it’s got bug-eyes and a weird – no it’s gone again. Everything goes dark. You wait ages. It must have stopped. Almost a minute goes by. Shall we go? Yeah let’s – no, look – there’s two more . And a baby…

The artist, Craig Walsh, has managed to capture something very deep in our imaginations (well – in mine, anyway) about the Thames. Ok, I’ve usually had one or two when I normally look into the river and see weird creatures – but there’s something very primeval about Man and monsters. We love them and are terrified by them pretty much equally, and stories of them have been with us since – well, since forever.

I love this installation with a passion. What I love about it is that it’s really subtle – you have to wait – and watch. And the magic isn’t just in seeing projections of creatures swimming around – it’s in the time in between those creatures’ appearances, and the thoughts that envelope you as you wait.

I thoroughly recommend this work of art. If you’re at London Bridge it’s a short walk to the north west corner. I reckon from about 6.45 to about 7.15pm is probably best. I went a second time to see it, later in the evening and the combination of lights under the bridge and the fact that later on you can ever so slightly see the whole projected image instead of just the monsters, makes me think that magical crepuscular moment is the most enchanting.

I tried, a bit half-heartedly, admittedly, to get a pic – but this isn’t something to be captured – it’s something to experience. You can try clicking on the image to get it bigger, but it won’t really give you anything like what it’s really like.

I would love to see this as a permanent installation – or at least an annual thing. It’s just great.

There’s one other exhibit, at Canary Wharf, which I haven’t seen – a moving ‘sinking ship’ – anyone here seen it?

If You Knit It, They Will Come…

Saturday, October 11th, 2008

Greenwich must be enjoying some kind of baby boom all of its own – in the last couple of years it’s sprouted at least four shops for well-heeled kiddies. Presumably there is a lot of cash to be had in tiny trews – as long as they’re well-made, bright and cute, there will always be a doting granny, uncle or Phantom…

United Ideas specialises in home-made woollies. They’re designed in England, but made in Peru. I’m assuming it’s all fair trade (note no capital letters) and peasant-friendly, though there is no mention of that on their website. I reckon that they’ve not bothered to go to the huge (and frankly prohibitively expensive for small traders) effort of getting it Fair Trade (with capital letters) certified but given that their Peruvian knitters have names and personalities, I’m guessing they’re not oppressed.

The designs are funky and quirky and brightly embroidered with houses, anchors and, my favourite, a rather fetching rocket design which if they did in Phantom size, I’d be buying myself. I was particularly taken, too, with the knitted finger puppets of all manner of animals and people at a pound a pop. The penguin and the hummingbird were my personal choices. They currently have several woollies on ‘sale’ – I’m assuming that there will be new designs in time for the Christmas rush.

Green Baby (a name I wouldn’t have chosen, especially given that when I tried to google it, I was given two ‘automatic’ options – the shop and the subject ‘green baby poop.’ Ick.) Approximately where the old coins and medals shop was. It’s ok – a chain, albeit a small one – and it sells all the usual stuff, with the not-so-USP-these days of it all being organic. It’s perfectly nice gear, and not just clothes. You can get eco-nappies and washables, if you’re really brave, equipment and furniture (though obviously not on display in store – it’s only tiny.) But when my testers-for-all-things-under-five went in they were depressed by the staff – who seemed to have very little English, slim knowledge of the stock and virtually no concern as to whether or even how they could get specific items ordered-in if they weren’t on show.

Another unpromisingly-named baby shop,Beauty and the Bib (it makes me squirm just to write it) is, despite its moniker, my favourite of the kiddiewear shops tested so far. In the place where Essential Music was, it’s bright, pretty and really rather girly (the pink chandelier’s a bit of a giveaway.) No prizes for guessing the main attraction. Bibs in the shape of strawberries, fairy cakes, bees and stars, bibs with pirates, spots and ladybirds – all sorts. There are bibs in flowery oilcloth, bibs in soft terry, bibs with backs, bibs with bows. Even special-needs bibs for larger children, with apples and hearts and stars.

This store’s mainly for new-borns and very tinies. There are hats and all-in-ones, bootees and changing mats, usually in themes. You can get boxes and gift sets too – I’m guessing that that’s their market – bemused relatives desperately searching for something to present to the stork-botherers.

There’s definitely a cup-cake theme – knitted cake-shaped boxes containing (somewhat randomly) socks, egg cosies and cuddly slices of cake (a strange concept, I know, but it does work. You have to be there.) There are even soap-and-towel sets done up to look like chocolate cakes – perfect gifts for new mums. They come in gold gauze drawstring bags, an added draw for a Phantom too lazy to wrap things up…

Party On, Dude…

Thursday, September 18th, 2008

…but at Matalan? Who’d have believed it.

People who know me find it highly amusing that the only chain I actually miss in Greenwich is the very wonderful Woolworths. I have always loved Woollies – ever since I was a kid – the pick & mix racks, the plastic picnicware, the chart CDs, the toys, the mop-and-bucket sets…

I can’t really explain why Woollies garish strip lighting, bright colours and cheerful tat have always held an almost mesmeric attraction for me – and let’s face it, I’m alone in this. Hell – the store announced £100m losses only yesterday as it slipped further in the public’s affections.

OK – They’ve made mistakes – remember when they tried to go up market a few years ago with ‘designer’ chocs and celebrity cappuccino-whisks? No? Nor does anyone else. But I still have a soft spot for Woollies and my mates always know where to find me if I go missing in a strange town…

But – well, we haven’t got one and that’s that. I have to go to Eltham or Lewisham if I want a Woolworths fix. In a jam, Wilkinson will do – in fact, even for die hard Woolworths fanatics like me Wilkinson is beginning to represent what Woollies used to be, but there ain’t one of them in Greenwich either.

Sorry. I just had to get that off my chest. And I am receiving therapy for this embarrassing affliction. But there is a reason why I’m wittering on about Woollies. Because that’s where I used to go to find bargain party stuff. I remember a couple of years ago trudging to Lewisham and buying a charming string of pumpkin Halloween fairy lights, that looked from a distance like a row of orange lollipops. I may even still have them. There’s therapy for that too.

But I have found a pretender to the party-throne.

Some clever person at Matalan – purveyor of cheapo clothing that falls apart the day after you buy it – has hit on the perfect product. Party stuff that dresses your home, your kids and yourself, which doesn’t matter if it falls apart the day after you use it.

The section started out small, with just a few balloons and paper chains, then it got in banners and a couple of hats. Since then it has been slowly getting bigger and bigger over the past few months.

Now it’s pretty large, selling happy-tat to decorate your home in any style you like. 70s disco? No problem. Western Saloon? It’s yours. Haunted house? We aim to please.

Large paper posters that give the impression of panelled rooms or cacti, a graveyard or a princess’s castle. Lanterns to hang from the ceiling. Balloons a go-go. Costumes (albeit not of the very top quality and mainly of the ‘sexy witch/nurse/cheerleader’ variety) for adults and children (less sexy for the kiddies, thank god) accessories that outshine the pathetic selection in Angels (which I was in yesterday but will not bother with again – now there’s a place that doesn’t care about its customers – rude, unhelpful staff, piss-poor selection (no better than Matalan and very much of the Smiffy-sort) and outrageous prices – avoid them, guys…) cards, badges, party poppers, make up, wigs – you name it.

Turnover is fast, so don’t count on any particular thing being there when you go. At the moment, it’s all Halloween stuff – loads of frankly horrid gore and unidentified plastic creatures with red lighting-up eyes – perfect for scaring the kiddies – I assume that as Christmas approaches, different fancy-dress stuff will supplant the horror. But I first noted this section back in May – so I think it’s going to be permanent.

I don’t know whether it’s a general thing with all Matalans or whether the buyer at the Charlton store is some kind of genius, but this to me is a great first-stop if you’re having a party. You MAY end up trekking into town for that extra-special piece of sparkly rubbish – but, if you’re having a bit of a do, do check at Matalan first. What it loses in quality, it makes up for in fun.

For somewhat better quality I’ll be looking at Prangsta another day…