Pant-tastic Review of Aliens Love Underpants by Eliza (aged 3)

mnberksAliens Love Underpants at Leicester Square Theatre, London

Based on the hugely successful children’s book by Claire Freedman and Ben Cort, ALIENS LOVE UNDERPANTS premieres in the West End at Leicester Square Theatre from Saturday 19th July until Sunday 31st August, following a highly acclaimed UK tour

Mumsnet Berkshire was invited to review Aliens Love Underpants theatre production at The Leicester Square Theatre on Sunday 20th July 2014. I gave the free tickets to Local Ambassador Helen and her 3 year old daughter Eliza to review the show. Here, Eliza tells us her thoughts on the day.

To continue my weekend of 3rd birthday celebrations mummy, nanny and granddad took me to London for the first time ever! If that wasn’t exciting enough, we were going to see Aliens Love Underpants at a theatre! Mummy assured me that the theatre would have red chairs like a theatre I have been to before.


When we got to the theatre I got a sticker which was fab and mummy got our tickets. The theatre was all on one level and the chairs were really nice and big. I got a special squishy seat to put on my chair and I saw lots of other children getting a squishy seat too. There were lots of watchers at the show and we were all very excited.

Mummy said she was scared of the aliens so I held her hand a bit and told her they were friendly. There was some alien music playing before the show started so I had a dance.

When the show started four people came on to the stage with ‘ I love pants’ written on their t-shirts – mummy had to read it to me as I’m not that cleverer yet! Some of the people (mummy said they’re called actors) came off the stage and asked the watchers what their favourite pants were! I shouted that mine were flowery. Nanny and granddad were laughing lots at all the other children shouting.

The people on the stage got changed and put some school uniform on and one was pretending to be a teacher. They sang a very good song and one of the school boys wanted to be a spaceman. Mummy said it was very clever how they introduced the book into the show.

The show isn’t the same as the book but the actors do say some of the things that are in the book. The actor who was pretending to be the school boys mummy put lots of pants out to dry and an alien space ship flew behind their garden wall and pinched the pants. The mummy had to go and buy some more pants and did a funny song and dance with a pretend shop keeper. My granddad was dancing in his chair! When the mummy went home and put the pants away we had to remember what pants she had brought and shout them out to her. I thought it was really good that we kept joining in and it meant that the grown ups wouldn’t be bored or fall asleep as we were shouting so loud.

Harrison Spiers in ALIENS LOVE UNDERPANTS photo credit sjsphoto - Copy

The aliens appear in the school boys bedroom and he is really lucky and goes on a space ship with them. The aliens are only pretend so my mummy really wasn’t scared – the aliens are puppets that are held by the actors and the school boy wears headphones so we can understand what the aliens are saying which was really good.


Mummy says I’m not allowed to tell you the rest of the story as it will spoil it when you do go and see it with your grown ups.


We stayed after the show and there were some sandwiches and cakes put on the bar and lemonade for the children and some special drinks for the grown ups. There was a really funny lady dressed as an alien making balloon aliens and she did make me a pink one.

ALU4The aliens with the actors came on to the stage and I did have my picture taken with them. I blew them a kiss too. I told my mummy that they were so friendly but she didn’t want to stand next to them. I think she was still a little bit scared.For being a really good girl, I got a goody bag with the Aliens Love Underpants book, a sticker game to make some aliens that I did in the car on the way home and I also got an Aliens Love Underpants waver that my nanny hid behind.

I had a pant-tastic time and my mummy, nanny and granddad all agreed that the 55 minutes show was a really good length for younger children, the actor people were really good and very fast at changing their costumes and the stage set was very simple but very effective.

I’m going to go and look for aliens in our clean pants now – as they like to hide in there you know!


It’s competition time folks!

For your chance to win a family ticket for four people to see Aliens In Underpants at Leicester Square Theatre see our Mumsnet Berkshire competition

How to gift money without being taxed

How to Gift Money Without Being Taxed


Most people know that inheritance tax is a tax charged (at 40%) on your estate when you die. If your estate is worth more than the inheritance tax threshold (currently £325,000) then the whole of the estate above that figure will be subject to the tax. There are, however, a number of exemptions of which you may be able to take advantage, effectively amounting to state-sanctioned tax avoidance!

All outright gifts are free of inheritance tax provided you survive seven years from the date of a gift. If you do not survive the full seven years then taper relief may be available on the tax payable on the gift, but only in very restricted circumstances. The relief will also be denied if you retain any benefit from the property which you have given away, otherwise known as a “gift with reservation of benefit” in the inheritance tax jargon.

Gifts made to charity are exempt from inheritance tax whether made in your lifetime or on death (in other words in your Will). Although we encourage our clients to leave legacies to charities in their Wills there is much to be said for the gifts being made in your lifetime because not only will the gifts reduce the size of your estate (and thus save inheritance tax) but you may be able to claim Gift Aid for income tax purposes. Perhaps it is better to do both!

In part we say this because of a new reduced rate of inheritance tax (38% rather than 40%) which has been introduced and will apply to those individuals who leave 10% or more of their estate to charity. In making the calculation, the taxman disregards property that attracts other exemptions or reliefs (including the nil rate band of £325,000), assets passing to your spouse (which are also exempt) and so on. Essentially, if you get the sums right, large amounts can be left to charity without significant loss to your beneficiaries, the biggest loser overall being the Inland Revenue!

It is even possible for your beneficiaries (or you if you are a beneficiary of someone else’s Will) to get together after someone has died and agree to redistribute the estate (using what is known as a “Deed of Variation”) to take advantage of this new rule.

A very important but often ignored tax allowance for inheritance tax purposes is that which applies to gifts made out of excess income. Inheritance tax is a tax on capital. If you have excess income in any given year and give away that excess income then, provided that the gift is of a regular nature, it is completely free of inheritance tax (no other exemptions need to be applied against it and the seven year rule does not apply). In principle, this is a very easy allowance to understand but in practice it is very difficult to obtain because detailed records are required. If this is something which you feel might apply to you then it is very important that you keep annual records of your income and expenditure and that these are accurate.

Perhaps the least known exemption is that which applies to payments made for the maintenance of dependent relatives. An obvious example would be paying for the school fees of your infant children. On the face of it, these appear to be “gifts” and would be taxable under the inheritance tax regime but are exempt as payments made to dependent relatives.  How many individuals, however, find themselves helping out elderly relatives with their living expenses? If you are in this situation then you, too, might be able to claim an inheritance tax exemption. There are some surprising circumstances in which this allowance is applicable and if you would like to explore this further, please contact us.


For further information please contact


Kate Humble Supports Local

Berkshire Local Editor:

Wow this is a really interesting blog!

Originally posted on Mumsnet Gwent :


As I entered the edible garden of Humble by Nature and heard the sound of excited children, chatting away and having fun, my first question was answered- “Does Humble by Nature host educational school trips for children?” Of course! And not only did they invite the local school along to the opening, they even had a cake competition, the winning cake was then served to all the guests at the opening.


Mrs Christofi, Head Teacher of Trellech Primary said, “When Humble by Nature asked us to be involved in the launch we were delighted. It’s great to see the farm expanding and offering more for the local area, as well as offering a showcase shop for some wonderful local producers. The children have loved creating a recipe for the cafe and we can’t wait to taste the winning cake!”
The winning cake was created by Layla Rollings from year…

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Awkward Questions Children Ask Part 3: What does the tooth fairy do with the teeth they collect?


Awkward Questions Children Ask Part Three

Good Toy Guide Logo_MED

Dr Amanda Gummer, Play & Parenting Psychologist and founder of Fundamentally Children has been helping Mumsnetters with how to answer those awkward questions that children ask.

So today’s question is:

What does the tooth fairy do with the teeth they collect?

tshirt sat at tableAmanda says… Imagination is a great tool and valuable in trying to understand things you cant see, hear or touch.

As with all the childhood myths and legends, it’s a wonderful opportunity to help children nurture their imagination and create their own beliefs.

You can say something like ‘No one really knows what the ‘tooth fairydoes with the teeth as you can’t see them, but why dont you think of all the things you think s/he may use them for?  And maybe draw a picture too.

Its also good to say what you like to think. Maybe they build homes or little villages?

Again, it’s good to reinforce that with beliefs, there’s no ‘right or wrong answer. For example ‘You can believe whatever you want to believe. Some people don’t believe in the Tooth fairy and this is fine too.’

A note from the Berkshire Local Editor: Harnessing a child’s imagination is a great thing and is a fantastic way to help them develop thought and consideration. You can get them to think through their argument. I think this because…… etc etc and that links in with what Amanda suggests about ensuring your child understands that there is no right or wrong answers when it comes to beliefs. I’d love to know your thoughts. Feel free to comment here or email

Read Part One: Who is lying?

Read Part Two: Why do grown ups argue?

Awkward Questions Part Two: Why Do Grown-Ups Argue?

Awkward Questions Children  Ask Part Two Good Toy Guide Logo_MED

Dr Amanda Gummer, Play & Parenting Psychologist and founder of Fundamentally Children has been helping Mumsnetters with how to answer those awkward questions that children ask.

So today’s question is:

Why do grown ups argue? Shouldn’t they know better because you get told off if you do it when you are little.


tshirt sat at tableAmanda says……

Sometimes in life people will have disagreements with one another – It is important to remember that these arguments do not mean they dont like each other or dont love each other anymore; they just disagree over something (as you may do with a friend or sibling at times).  Sometimes an argument is a way of figuring out a problem and means that something gets better as a result.

But, when people get cross they occasionally argue and voices get raised, its not nice and it is ok to ask them to stop, as they do to you.  

Note from Mumsnet Berkshire Editor:

Personally I’d like to add that I think it’s important to show your child that there has been a resolution and that you have made up with whoever you have been arguing with. Even if it’s that you agree to disagree.

I’d love to know your thoughts on Dr Gummer’s advice and in fact, what you’d say yourself so please comment below or email me Do you think it’s acceptable to argue in front of children? Is it preventable or something that is inevitable? Do you show your children when you’ve made up after arguing?

Read Part One where Dr Amanda Gummer discusses how to answer the question: My 6 year old has been asking why his science books say the Universe was made by the Big Bang but at church they say that God made it. Who is lying?

Read Part Three: What does the tooth fairy do with teeth they collect?



Awkward Questions Part One: Who is lying?


Awkward Questions Children Ask Part One Good Toy Guide Logo_MED


Dr Amanda Gummer, Play & Parenting psychologist and founder of Fundamentally Children has been has answering your questions on how to respond to those awkward questions children ask!

So here is the first question :

My 6 year old has been asking why his science books (he is a bit of a bookworm) say the universe was made by the Big Bang but at church they say God made it. He keeps asking me who is ‘lying’?’

tshirt sat at table

Amanda says……

It is important to have our own personal beliefs as it helps us to make sense of our complex world and can create a comfort to some people. You could try saying something along the lines of …

As the world is so old its hard to know exactly how it was created, and there is no one answer that everyone agrees on. Individuals and groups of people have varying ideas about what or who created the world and these are their personal beliefs.

Scientists believe there is evidence of a ‘Big Bangand that the planet Earth was formed during this event. Whereas the church likes to think ‘Godcreated the world and everything that lives here.

There are also other theories from other groups and religions too. You are able to believe whichever theory you like and neither are the ‘rightor ‘wronganswer, you may even have a different theory of your own.

It is important to remember your friends may have different ideas and opinions to you and that you wont always agree, but you can have different opinions and still respect each other’s views and be friends.

This is also a good opportunity to engage with a child on what they’ve been learning at school and ask them what they liked about the Big Bang theory for example.  Ask your school or library if they have any relevant books you can borrow.

Note from Mumsnet Berkshire Editor:

It must be really hard to discuss this without imposing your beliefs on your children and you may even find they are curious to know what your beliefs are. Of course it is fine to share these with your children. I think its a great idea to use this as an opportunity to help your child learn about these different ideas and teaching them to research beliefs and ideas before they make their own minds up.

I am really interested to know your thoughts on Dr Amanda Gummer’s advice on how to respond to this question. Please leave your comments here or email


Read Part Two: Why do Grown-ups argue?

Read Part Three: What does the tooth fairy do with teeth?

My interview with Theatrical Director Richard Lewis


Octonauts Live has been adapted and directed by Richard Lewis, a man with a multitude of exciting projects under his belt including Peppa Pig Live and Lazy Town. I was given the opportunity to ask Richard Lewis some questions about Octonauts Live and all about directing theatrical versions of popular children’s TV shows and I think you’ll agree it makes very interesting reading. I can’t wait to see Octonauts Live! Mumsnet Berkshire is running a competition. You can WIN free tickets to go and see Octonauts Live! Details at the end!


Adaptor and Director OF OCTONAUTS LIVE UK TOUR 2014 – 15


A brand new children’s stage show from the producers of Peppa Pig Live!

Back in January when you were interviewed by the Telegraph about the production of Peppa Pig, you mentioned that most popular children’s TV programmes want a stage show. What made you choose Octonauts as suitable for a stage production?

There are a variety of things we look for in projects. Perhaps first and foremost we’ve got to be excited by it and interested in it. If we haven’t got that, everything else will probably fail. Octonauts is a great adventure and really suits a stage adaptation –visually it’s impressive and it’s got some great characters in it. Perhaps most of all it’s got an important message to deliver –the protection of the seas and the natural environment.

Octonauts is full of adventure and perhaps more complex a television programme than Peppa Pig which is more simplistic. How did you go about turning Octonauts into a theatre production?

When turning TV animations into stage shows you have to be true to the core material. Octonauts is an action-packed, visually exciting and fast-moving adventure. It is important to ensure these elements are included in the stage show. To do this we use a mixture of formats that include large-scale projections which represent the sea and show the scale of adventure. We also use a mixture of black light and UV puppetry to show movement within the sea. We will have costume characters which accurately reflect the shape and size of the screen characters. But crucially, we make sure the costume characters have mouths that can speak directly to the audience so that we can include natural interactivity with the audience. Once you’ve decide these core principles, you then have to assemble around you a production and stage management crew that can deliver all of these assets.

How does it compare to the creation of the Peppa Pig’s Big Splash show which you also adapted for stage and directed?

All the adaptations have challenges in their own right which come from the content material. In the case of Peppa, retaining the intimacy and the childish fun was crucial to the show. It very much focuses on family values, Peppa’s relationships with her friends and other events in her immediate environment. With Octonauts the focus is on broader themes; environmental damage, saving sea life and working with others as a team to achieve a goal. Additionally, the Octonaut scenarios are set in a more complicated environment, they are either under the sea or in an area that is more technically difficult to reproduce or they involve fast-paced stage action sequences. So the core material of each of these brands is fundamentally different in style, making each show unique in itself.

Do you prefer directing children’s theatre productions to more grown up theatre productions? Why?

Perhaps the thing I like the best about directing the children’s shows is that I also get the opportunity to adapt them in the first place and then direct them in the rehearsal room afterwards. With the “grown up”shows you tend to be given a script that has been written by someone else and you apply a directorial interpretation to someone else’s work. In the case of the children’s shows, you are applying your own interpretation to your own adaptation. In this way, you are able to develop your ideas that you had at the script stage even further when you come to present them visually on stage. Perhaps the other exciting thing I find about children’s shows is that there is invariably a level of interactivity with the audience that you don’t have with the “grown up”shows. By having this connection with the audience you are able to offer a type of involvement that sometimes doesn’t happen with the grown up productions. Also, as everyone tells you, children can be your harshest critics. If they are bored or unhappy they will stand up and run around or just make a noise so one of the greatest challenges is often to find the focus for their concentration levels and ensure that they are continually engaged by the show. This is a real challenge.

What made you decide to work on productions aimed at the younger audience?

It wasn’t so much a choice as an accident. I had previously directed children’s shows as part of my directing career but was not planning to work in this area as extensively as I have been. Then seven years ago a producing colleague of mine asked if I would direct the CBeebies show The Fimbles and I agreed to do it. Shortly after that I became involved in the LazyTown Live shows which went on to be very successful. From that I found that other brands began to associate me with someone who worked in this field. So in the first instance it was an accident rather than a choice. However I originally trained as a drama teacher and worked for two years in the state sector and have always been interested in the social and individual development of children and this work seemed to be a natural extension of some of the ideas that I developed long ago. In fact part of the work that Limelight is now doing is developing a concept which we call “Happy Hearts” which is about the areas of development in children. We hope to be able to offer content for parents and children to assist this process.

Do you have to use your inner child to develop the production from screen to theatre?

It’s actually a very good question. Every adult still retains an inner child; it just depends on what access that adult has been able to retain to that child over the years. Sometimes they’ve been worn down by responsibility, by work, by events that happen in their life and have lost the capacity for that innocence which so reflects young children. When I was young I’m sure I was always an inquisitive child and always wanted to know why things happened, what made things worked, why was the sea blue and how do the starts sparkle….and although in my adult life those questions have changed I still retain an enquiring mind about everything around me. Hopefully also I’ve retained a sense of humour and imagination. These things together and have allowed me to look at the adaptations, the script and stage work through the eyes of a child. One of the things I find most fascinating is watching the first audiences that we have for a show because they will tell you instantly when things are not working or when things are going wrong. At those moments it’s quite possible for me to instantly understand what is wrong because they have shown me how to see the project again through their eyes.

How closely do you work with the original producers of the Octonauts television show to adapt it for theatre?

It is essential that we have a very close collaboration with the originators of any brand. They are the original source of enthusiasm, ideas and energy for the world that they have created and they are the best people to guide us on the adaptation process. Sometimes I refer to them as “The Gods” of their world. The choices they make, the characters they develop and the narratives they choose are all a reflection of what they hope to achieve. One of our key roles is to “get inside” the world of the brand and understand it in a truthful and fundamental way. If we fail to do this we will never accurately represent what they hope for on stage. When we begin work on a new project we will always start with a brainstorming session with the creators of the particular animation or TV show. Prior to this they will have sent us detailed information on the characters, the environments, the imagery and the core values of the brand. At the brainstorm we will explore some of the opportunities that the live show might be able to represent. Once I am armed with the ideas that come from this session I will attempt to distil them down to a single page synopsis which reflects the key points of the brainstorming day, but also is viable in theatre terms. Invariably the creators of the show will offer comments and suggestions to the synopsis and I will work on a second synopsis which will begin to flesh the ideas out a little further. Usually after the second synopsis I am able to write a first draft script which goes through the same sort of scrutiny. Once we have received suggestions on this script there is a very good chance we will have our rehearsal script. We then begin to work with set designers, lyricists, composers and a whole range of other people to start exploring the ideas of the script. But in terms of gaining the input and trust of the original creators it’s essential for there to be an easy and open dialogue between us all of the time.

You have an extensive and varied list of productions under your belt. Which has been your favourite and why?

I guess here you’re referring to the children’s shows and it would be improper for me to choose between one or the other. However what I can genuinely say that each of them bring such a sufficiently different approach to the others that they are unique and exciting in themselves. Not a single one of the productions emulates the style of the other, consequently LazyTown differs from The Fimbles, The Fimbles differs from Peppa and Octonauts too is different again. But it is the challenges they bring that makes everything so rewarding. Also, it’s exciting to be able to work with such a variety of talents that have generated these incredible series. During the development and approval processes of the shows I am always aware of the creative abilities that surround me … and back to your early question about the importance of working with the brand, it is only once you are working with the creators that you realise how completely they understand the world of their creation. Also it’s true to say that every single project you work on, including the non-children’s shows, brings with it a learning and life experience that you invariably take forward with you. So for example the show that has made me laugh the most was different from the show that made me cry the most; the show that made me excited the most was different from the one that was the most visual; the one that had the best music was different from the one that had the best characters and puppeteering. Also the range and type of performers that you get to work with during this period of time ranges from “I never want to see that person again”to “this person will go on to be a close friend”, so it’s just too difficult to say that one was a particular favourite. In their own way they’ve all had their benefits, they’ve all had their challenges, all had their disappointments and all had their successes, I’ve just been lucky enough to work in an exciting and stimulating environment as part of what I do.

What’s your next project? Go on.. you can tell me ;-)

Well, we continue to represent Peppa Pig worldwide and we have productions in Australia, Spain, Italy and shortly in Latin America and the US. Currently I’ve just completed the first synopsis for what we call, Peppa Pig 4….but will go to be called (I think) Peppa Pig’s Surprise. Peppa Pig’s Surprise will have its world premiere in the UK in October 2015 and then will go out for a 50 week tour. Beyond this we’re also working with some other major brands on developing projects for them but the only one I can particular confirm at this moment is an international touring show of Hello Kitty.

I’m really excited to see the show in February. My son will have just turned 3. Is this a good age to introduce children to the theatre?

I think 3 is a perfect age for a child to begin having theatrical experiences. Quite often I visit the shows and we see babes-in-arms of no more than 9 months, completely unaware of the experience they’ve been taken to. This is not, their fault, nor is it that of their parents; it’s just that their parent has been so determined and pleased to give their child an experience of something they perhaps love on TV at home they have chosen to take their child to it early on. The average starting age of children seeing pantomimes is 4 years old and bear in mind this will be going to see what is effectively a new experience and narrative. At 3 for the child to be able to experience characters they have seen on TV in their own front rooms and then experience them on stage is a very good bedrock for beginning their theatre journey through life. Also if you choose the right show for your 3 year old the production will invariably involve interactivity and it is a great place for this connection to begin. It will also be the first time that the child experiences the community of a theatre audience rather than watching in isolation, this has so many benefits from teaching concentration, working in groups, joining in, problem solving with others … the list goes on. I couldn’t recommend it as a better time.

What do you think dictates the success of a children’s theatre production for popular TV programmes?

Undoubtedly the success of a children’s theatre production is based on its profile and traction within the current market. Of course it needs to have great stories, good ideas and inherent values but the key to the success is that it is ready to be turned into a stage show. We have numerous brands approach us looking to develop a live show before the environment for that show is viable. Usually this would mean that the programme had been on the TV for approximately 5 years or longer, that is has 102 or more episodes which means it is well embedded in everyone’s mind and you’re not having a lot of repeat episodes, and that the consumer product programme is relatively extensive –this would mean for us that there are key licensees in place for toys and apparel, magazines, giftware and other core licenses as well as a variety of more specialist ideas. We generally look for a licensee programme to be in excess of around 30 licensees. On the basis of these being in place we are able to determine that the brand has sufficient popularity to support a live show. At the end of the day you are asking parents to buy tickets for their children to see their favourite characters on the stage. Once the “commercial environment” is stable it is then vital that the stories and content that will feed the drama of the live show are exploited to the full. This will be through song, characters, interactivity, set, costume and a mix of format which might include projection, puppetry and other costume character work. So there is a mix of criteria that need to form the back cloth to any successful theatre production.

Have any of yours flopped and if so, why do you think that was?

I presume this question is relating to the children’s shows but of course flops and failures also occur in the “grown up”theatrical environment.  It also runs into that tricky question: what constitutes a “flop”? Is a flop commercial failure or artistic failure? The reality is that over the years I have experienced failures of various kinds. Sometimes the box office hasn’t been as potent as we would have liked, sometimes the reviews haven’t been as kind as we will have liked. But none of these reasons would mean I wouldn’t have chosen to do exactly what I did do. Creative criticism is by its nature interpretive and what one person hails as a major success another might see as a damning failure. I don’t really quantify success in commercial terms. As a company we have had a number of productions that have lost money but, in all instances, I have never once regretted putting the shows on. I think the truth is if you just put shows on the make money, you’re doing it for the wrong reasons. In each of our cases we put shows on because we want to and believe in them. Yes, from a business point of view it’s helpful if they make money (or certainly don’t lose money) but that is not what is driving the whole concept of doing it in the first place.

Can you do Fireman Sam please because my son would LOVE that!

I’d love to do Fireman Sam but there’s already been a version of the production and you can see the live show on DVD if you want (in fact, I have one on my desk at the moment)!


Octonauts image1It’s competition time folks!

You could WIN a family ticket to see Octonauts Live at a theatre near you! To enter, just use the following link:




When Mumsnet Essex met with Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg & Justine Roberts (Mumsnet CEO)

Originally posted on Mumsnet Essex:


On Monday 30th June 2014, I was invited to head into London to discuss the new Flexible Working Rights with Mumsnet & Nick Clegg.

Up until now, the right to request flexible working hours has only been available for carers, or people who look after children.

This has now been extended to all employees.

Tuesday’s extension of the right to request the chance to work flexibly means more than 20 million employees can now benefit.

Flexible working helps people balance their work with responsibilities, keeping more people in long term employment and enabling companies to keep hold of top talent.

It is expected the new right will be of particular interest to older workers who want to work differently as they approach retirement and to young people entering the labour market who may want take up additional training or learning while they work.

As part of the right, employees can…

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When a baby can’t go home with Mummy

Throughout pregnancy every mother looks forward to the moment they get to meet their baby. Whether its for the first time or the last time, all you wish for is a healthy baby. The thing is, not all babies are born healthy. We rarely stop to think about what it’s like for mothers when their babies aren’t born healthy and the impact it has not only on the baby but on the whole family too.

One brave Berkshire Mum, Jemma Davis has kindly shared her story about the birth of her Son James and his diagnosis of congenital Hyperinsulinism and the impact this has had on her life. Please read on and take a moment to reflect on how you might be able to help Jemma and other families like hers.

I for one, can’t imagine having to go home without my baby and I can’t imagine the turmoil of having to choose between your children in such a way.


My pregnancy with James was just like any other pregnancy, he is my second child, my first being a beautiful healthy daughter Amelia-Rose, now 17 months old. My bump grew very quickly and I was a lot bigger whilst carrying James, however my midwife didn’t seem concerned. Friends and family were adamant he was going to be a big boy but I just didn’t believe it.

I went into labour 2 weeks early on the morning of the 7th March 2014, that evening at 8:12pm our beautiful baby boy James was born, weighting a huge 11lb 8oz. A couple of hours went by and myself and Shaun were enjoying cuddles with our newborn son, everything was perfect. James guzzled a huge amount of milk down, more then an average baby would usually take, but we just put this down to his size.

Soon after his feed we noticed James had started to shake, almost like he was shivering. We thought he may be cold so wrapped him up in blankets but this didn’t help, we then noticed his hand had turned blue, this was when we. knew something was not right. A doctor rushed James away and told us some tests will need to be done, this was very upsetting for us we had no idea what was going on or what was happening to our boy. They moved us onto a ward to get some rest and told us we would be able to see James once they have done these test and things were settled.

Later that evening a doctor came back, James had been moved to the special care unit, they found out his blood glucose levels were dangerously low. To stabilize these they will need to put fluids into his body via his belly button. Once things were settled we were allowed to go up and see James. we weren’t quite expecting what we saw, James was attached to many wires and machines, this was heartbreaking for us, we were unable to cuddle or handle James due to these wires and the risk of them falling out, as his body was dependent on them, we just felt so helpless.









We were hoping his blood glucose levels would eventually stabilize, however this was not he case for James, 2 days later and there was still no improvement. On the 3rd day it was decided that James should be transferred to Great Ormond Street hospital in a London were they have a specialist team that deal with hyperglycemia (Low blood sugars).

We knew at this moment that things weren’t going to be easy, our whole family were worried for James . James was transported to the hospital via ambulance and  we were going to be with him that evening.

Myself and Shaun were sent home and we decided it would be best for me to travel to London with my mum the next day while he stayed at home looking after our daughter. James was put on a ward which specializes in endocrine and metabolic patience, this was where tests were done and we found out James has a condition called congenital Hyperinsulinism. This is something we had never heard of before.

It’s a relatively rare condition but can be potentially serious if not managed.  Hyperinsulinism is a condition where the pancreas is creating inappropriate and unregulated insulin secretion. So there is more insulin in the body then needed which causes blood glucose levels to dangerously drop. Symptoms of the condition can be shaking, floppies, sleepiness and sometimes feeding problems and it effects around 1 in 40,000-50,000 people. It is mostly picked up on from birth but not always. If blood glucose levels are not stabilize it can often cause seizures, lose of consciousness and potential brain damage.

This was a very scary time for us, how could our baby boy be so poorly he just looked perfectly healthy. James had to go under general anesthetic to have a Hickman line put in which was an alternative to the line into his belly button but more stable, so he would be getting the fluid he needs, we were then also able to finally give James a cuddle at 4 days old.

j7 James needs hourly blood glucose checks which involves pricking his tiny heals on his feet for blood samples, his heals are now very bruised. James is constantly attached to a machine to receive his fluids so we are unable to take him out, he has the condition quite severe and also needs 2 other medications to keep his levels stable. Each day we would travel up to see James as a family, more tests where done and different medications where tried but unfortunately these did not work with James.

A few weeks went by and a we started to realize that’s James was going to be at a Great Ormond street hospital for quite a while and the time came where we just could not afford for all of us to travel any more. We later decided the best thing we could do was for one of us to travel while the other stays at home with Amelia-rose.

I was traveling nearly everyday to be with James and then back home to spend the evening with My daughter and Shaun. It was costing me over £100 a week something we could not really afford at the moment due to dad not being able to work as he was caring for Amelia-rose.

I feel so torn between both I want to be with both of them but it’s just not possible. It is horrible having to leave either one of them, I just feel a constant sense of guilt. Dad is constantly missing James but lets me go to see him because he knows how hard I am finding this, whenever we can, we try are best to go altogether as a family but at the moment it was just not financially possible.

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We tried hard to get family accommodation with help from the hospital so we could all be together, but no where was available to have us. We managed to get a small grant for help with travel which covered a weeks worth, but after that we went back to struggling.

Bills were falling behind and we had to start cutting down on how often we could go and see James, it was killing us. He is our baby boy and we are missing out on so much, we would do anything to bring him home.


We travelled to the University of London College Hospital for a PET CT Scan and we found out his condition was focal which meant only part of his pancreas was bad and there is a chance he can be cured with surgery which involves removing the bad part. Its difficult procedure and would take a long time but the chance there was a cure was fantastic news to us! After spending 3 months of traveling back and forth to London everyday, money was running out, bills need paying and we were just all exhausted, and tired of worrying. To hear there was chance James could finally come home and be with his family was amazing news!

After 4 hours in surgery, we prayed for the best, things were looking good until that evening and James blood glucose levels continued to drop and we were back to were we started! This news was devastating, we were all so stressed and worried. How could we afford to keep traveling like this when dads not able to work, we thought about differnent options, maybe I take Amelia-Rose to the hospital with me? And then dad is able to work.

We tried this for a couple of days but it was just to hard, I was exhausted and it just wasn’t fair on Amelia. We just didn’t know what to do anymore. The hospital told us there is a chance some of the lesion may have been left in, even the smallest part can cause the same effects on his glucose levels. That was when they told us James would have to wait another 2 weeks for a second PET scan and then possibly more surgery, it was so upsetting to hear.

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Despite everything James has been through he still smiles through it all, he is such a brave boy and we could not be more proud of him and of our Daughter for how good she has been through this difficult time. After realizing James was not going to be coming home anytime soon, we started to panic, we needed help, we couldn’t just leave our boy alone, we need to be with him as well as our daughter. We turned to other family members for help and they were brilliant and helped as much as possible whether it was towards travel cost or going up to visit James themselves so i could have a day a home for some rest, and time with my daughter and Shaun.

After asking family for help and exhausting all other options we just didn’t no what to do anymore, so I turned to a group on Facebook called Wokingham gossip girls, I posted about James condition and about our financial struggles and worries and ask members of the group for advice that had been in a similar situation before. I was amazed by the response of the group everyone was so lovely, offered lots of advice on possible accommodation, charity’s that may be able and just kind words. Unfortunately we had no success with accommodation and had already exhausted every other option, but what happened next we were not expecting at all.

People started posting with kind words and saying they would like to donate to us to help us be with James, we couldn’t believe it, did these people really want to help us? We where absolutely overwhelmed by everyone’s response. They suggested we started a fund raising page so anyone that wanted to help could. We took there advice and set up a just giving page for James and posted it in the group, it all happened very quickly from there. Several people started donating to help us be with our boy, before we knew it we had over £1000! This is enough for us to travel as a family for a whole month! That’s a months worth of stress and worry taken away from us just knowing we can be with our boy! With nothing getting in the way.

We couldn’t be anymore grateful then we are now and the generosity and kindness of everyone really has touched us. James still has a long way to go, but we know he is in the best place. We are currently waiting on the results from his second scan, and then we will know the next stages of his treatment. We are still hoping James has a chance to be cured and can only wish for the best. Knowing that we have the money to be with our boy for a whole month truly takes so much worry away from us. We are trying to help spread awareness about James condition as it is so rare, we were lucky his was pick up from birth but others have not been so lucky. We are extremely thankful to anyone that has helped and donated to us so we can spend more time with our son. We hope to have our boy home soon and cant wait for that day, it has now been nearly 4 months but feels like 4 years.


Any money left over we would like to donate towards the Hyperinsulism fund so more research can be done to find different medications and treatments to help other babies suffering from this condition.


Oh, Just the School Starting Age Issue. . .

Berkshire Local Editor:

Children really need to play. From the moment they are born we now constantly try and force them to grow sleep through…to eat solids….to walk early….to count to 100 by the time they are two…. Evidence let kids be kids!

Originally posted on London-on-Toast:

Excerpted from the University of Cambridge article “School Starting Age: the Evidence“:

“Earlier this month the “Too Much, Too Soon” campaign made headlines with a letter calling for a change to the start age for formal learning in schools. Here, one of the signatories, Cambridge researcher David Whitebread, from the Faculty of Education, explains why children may need more time to develop before their formal education begins in earnest.”

In the interests of children’s academic achievements and their emotional well-being, the UK government should take this evidence seriously

- David Whitebread


“Back to School”. Homepage banner image by Woodley Wonderworks via Flickr Credit: Nick Page from Flickr .

In England children now start formal schooling, and the formal teaching of literacy and numeracy at the age of four. However, the UK’s Department of Education states clearly that compulsory school age is five.  Children born in the summer…

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