So S is for Scary, Stories and Supplies today for my entry in Jenny Matlock’s Alphabe Thursday now all I need is a monster aged 8 or over…..

Have you ever heard of 826 literacy project? I hadn’t until yesterday, quite by chance via Twitter and that gives me a fourth S today Serendipity but I digress dear reader. The 826 National is a nonprofit tutoring, writing, and publishing organization, set up to assist students aged six to eighteen with their writing skills, and to help teachers get their classes excited about writing. Work is based on the understanding that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention, and that strong writing skills are fundamental to future success.

Sounds brilliant doesn’t it? This is one time that I want to be 10 years old again!

Currently there are 9 centres dotted all over the USA and now, luckily for us, some very hard working people who you can read about on We Made This have secured funding from the Arts Council and The JJ Charitable Trust the author Nick Hornby jumped on board and Hoxton Street Monster Supplies –  Purveyor of Quality Goods for Monsters of Every Kind opened back in November 2010 for the delight of kids across the land and I WANT TO GO NOW! Only I need to be aged 8 – 18…even my best attempt at a monster disguise won’t let me get away with the loss of that many years!

The shop was established in 1818 and has been supplying Britain’s extensive monster community since. In fact you can find a whole range of Tinned Fears each containing a specially commissioned short story from authors like Nick Hornby and Zadie Smith, there is a wonderful selection of Human Preserves and a very handy Neck-Bolt Tightener amongst other necessary monster wares. The beadier eyed beast will note that the shelves of the shop conceal an entrance. A secret and well disguised portal that leads to the Ministry of Stories which has been architectured and designed in the smallest detail to feel really special and it certainly looks special.

The Ministry has already held numerous workshops which monsters both locally and from afar have given their thumbs up. The BBC themselves were suitably impressed and the journalist from The Guardian gave a glowing report. But let’s be honest – would you dare write a bad review on a monster supply shop? – not me!

So if you have some monsters lying around who need a little inspiration or a creative outlet to create the next Harry Potter then you really should rush down to this place…I’m going to kidnap my niece and nephew (aged 9 and 11) whilst they’re sleeping and leave my twins in their beds so their parents won’t realise, that’ll get me my ticket into the Ministry of Stories. How are you going to get in?

I confess to stealing each and every single photo from the We Made This blog and I am now on a 24/7 monster watch. Aaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhhhhhh

Group photo in Tate Modern, London

I only have to think the word Italiani and I have a smile on my face. I can say, hand on heart, they are the friendliest, noisiest, chattiest and most patriotic people I know. You cannot BUT be pulled to them and their view on life. They are convinced theirs is the best diet in the world and turn their nose up at our poor English cuisine, you will not, I repeat, will not win a discussion with them over food, trust me just leave it, even if your dad is Gordon Ramsey. They know their country is one of the most beautiful in the world, after all it offers everything, sun, sand, mountains, skiing, countryside, good food EVERYWHERE and they produce most of it themselves. And I would urge anyone thinking of a visit to go, having worked for a few years at the Italian Tourist Board and lived in Italy myself for close to 20 years  it’s like a second home to me.

I was lucky enough this week to have my very own ‘italiani’ over in London for a few days. My best friend Enrica with an entourage that puts Madonna to shame, her husband and their beautiful daughter Vittoria (asleep in her buggy) Max’s two children from his previous marriage and Enrica’s sister who has a very impressive camera and I dread to think how many photos she took home of London with her. Sadly for us, the weather wasn’t palying ball, as we stepped out onto the South Bank to make our way to the Tate Modern the heavens opened and as we raced for the final tunnel that would lead us to the Art Galleries’ entrance we found it was blocked off for repair! Aaaarrrrggghhh! We lugged the two heavy buggies up steps and raced them round to the old power station that houses this marvellous Exhibition house and that is why dear reader we look like drenched rats in our photo :)

We were lucky to catch up with Serena too who is over for six months to improve her English and work/live the London life for a while. And as we stood here for our photo, in the Turbine Hall below us a carpet of sunflower seeds laid out wall to wall. It’s only on closer inspection you see the artist Ai Weiwei has hand crafted each seed from porcelain. 100 million seeds forming a seemingly endless landscape. Go here to see a video fo the man himself and the beauty of his sculpture.

This is my entry for I in Alphabe Thursday over at Jenny Matlock’s and now I’m heading over to see what everyone else came up with.

Photo credit – Tate Modern

At the end of April we went on a family outing to Godstone Farmwith our 21 month old twin girls. A short drive from the M25 brings you to the farm in the Surrey countryside where an ample ‘green’ car park awaits.

godstone farm

The total entrance fee was £8.00 with no time restriction and as we passed through the gates we immediately came across a map of the farm and large posters inviting us to wash our hands after viewing the pets.

There is no set course to follow but wide paths lead you in between the various animal enclosures where through wire fences you can spot turkeys, goats and even llamas. Further on, is a large shed where from a balcony you can see the lambs and calfs in pens. A blackboard listed the births and all around were information posters with information on gestation and the growth of the animals.

godstone farm

On leaving these enclosures there were child sized sinks inviting everyone to wash their hands with warm water, plenty of soap and paper towels. For our girls this was just as exciting and quickly became a highlight of their trip around the farm!

godstone farm

The restaurant on site has a fairly priced menu that covers most tastes and the souvenir shop is full of ideas from cuddly farm animals to jigsaws and pictures to hang on the wall.

Other animal enclosures include guinea pigs, rabbits, pigs, ducks and donkeys, each full of explanatory posters on their life cycle, their feeding habits and even their names, some can even be held under supervision.

godstone farm

Once the children tire of the animals there is a large soft play area with a small cafeteria where they can let off steam, a huge sand pit full of buckets, spades and diggers. A very well equipped park with ships to play on alongside the slides, swings and climbing frames.

Godstone Farm may ring a bell as it was the focus of media attention last September following an outbreak of E Coli resulting in 36 children being affected and the hospitalisation of a few. The farm was shut down temporarily and these issues have since been thoroughly dealt with.

Hygiene is of paramount importance and members of staff can be seen touring the farm constantly. A little common sense and extra care washing small hands after visiting the pets and I can promise you a fun packed day with some delightful memories for your little ones.