Mary Poppins at the Wales Millennium Centre – Practically Perfect!

For one nine year old girl, it has been a l-o-o-n-g few days. Exhausted from a busy first term in Year 5, and then last week her school concert and drama club Christmas showcase, she has been looking paler by the day. There were moments this week, as she dissolved into tired tears over nothing at all, that I had my doubts as to whether a late night seeing Mary Poppins at the Wales Millennium Centre was a wise move.

I’m so glad that she persuaded me otherwise, with promises of early nights for evermore (ha, we’ll see how that goes!) and even an offer to write a review herself ‘because that would be really good for my English, Mum’. Her written review may or may not be forthcoming – but we’ve had a pretty much non stop verbal review since the minute the curtain came down, mostly along the lines of ‘Best. Night. Ever.’

And you know what, for a tired little girl and her frazzled mother, it really was. From the second the curtain went up to reveal the chimneys of Cherry Tree Lane and Bert – lovely Bert – chin-chim-cheree-ing, we were captivated.

The set alone was truly outstanding. Cherry Tree Lane opened out like a doll’s house, inviting us to get up close and personal with Banks family and their trials and tribulations, starting of course with Katie-Nana’s sudden departure and the apparently doomed quest for the perfect nanny. When Mary Poppins arrives, as we know she will, the children are whisked spit-spot up to the nursery and here we’re given a first taste of the Mary Poppins magic, including the bottomless carpet bag as well as the tape measure pronouncing Mary Poppins to be Practically Perfect, and Michael and Jane to be, uh, well, not.

From here the production intertwines familiar and favourite aspects of the film with newer songs and situations written specifically for the stage musical – this has the effect of making the story wonderfully comforting and familiar, while holding the audience in thrall to the next adventure, not knowing quite how or where it might occur.  There was plenty to engage adults, not least in the world of work as Mr Banks reflects that ‘making money from money’ does not seem to bode well for the future; but of course the lessons about what children really need from their parents are the most poignant – I’m sure that I wasn’t the only adult in the audience resolving to fly more kites, be they metaphorical or real.

The energy level of the show was amazing from start to finish – while the songs themselves would have carried the show, the choreography really took it to another level; how the cast managed nearly three hours without appearing to fade even a little bit is beyond me. There were a few gasp-out-loud moments which had my girl (and, ahem, me) enthralled in our seats – but no spoilers here!

While my girl’s favourite part of the show was the high-octane Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, the standouts for me were ‘A Spoonful of Sugar’ (look out for yet another fantastic set), and ‘Step in Time’. The number that we’ve both been humming along to today though is one that doesn’t appear in the film, ‘Anything can Happen (if you let it)’. It was a wonderfully uplifting song to end the evening on, and we left with the thought that though the show was over, the magic needn’t be. And in these times, that’s a truly lovely thing.

**HUGE thanks to the Wales Millennium Centre who gave us a chance to enjoy the magic of Mary Poppins**


Mary Poppins at the Wales Millennium Centre

Mary Poppins.

Even just saying the name is enough to bring back my childhood, and my worn out copy of P.L.Travers‘ first Mary Poppins book (I never loved the others quite so much). My sisters and I watched the film as often as repeats on TV would allow (must explain to my kids the concept of telly-NOT-on demand sometime) and we listened to the LP over and over again, becoming word and action perfect. I do not know how old I was when I stopped secretly hoping that it would one day be possible to clean our wreck of a bedroom with a finger click and a spoonful of metaphorical sugar, but I suspect it was far older than I’d care to admit.

Of course I did eventually grow out of hoping that Mary Poppins would descend from the sky, and also realised quite how loooong and weird the film actually is, and that was that. Right up until I found myself having had three kids in a little under four and a half years. And then, believe me, a random umbrella wielding nanny bringing a sense of order to my life was ALL I hoped for. For months, possibly years.  (I may or may not have tried clicking my fingers frantically at the mess through a post natal haze of tears. Certainly nobody saw me do it, so, uh, probably I didn’t).

I’ll tell you what I did do most definitely do though, was a little dance of joy when the Wales Millennium Centre contacted me to ask if I’d like to bring one of the kids to see Mary Poppins next week. Not only because I’ll get to sing along to all my childhood favourites, but also because it will be a lovely treat for my ever patient girl-in-the-middle who in her own way, does an awful lot of Mary Poppinsing and smoothing over between her brothers. What a lovely way to start the Christmas Holidays!

If you fancy a bit of chimchimney magic and a supercalifragilisticexpialidocious evening out to boot, you can book to see the show at the Wales Millennium Centre here – it’s on from December 14th – January 14th 2017. Enjoy!

**Disclosure – the WMC kindly invited me to see Mary Poppins free of charge in return for a review**


Diagnosis of ASD – what’s next?


Yep. There it is in black and white. Feels kind of weird to be honest. I mean, I knew this was a possible – even probable – destination for the journey we’ve been on over the last 16 months.

And yet.

I’ve heard so much about how difficult it is to get a diagnosis of ASD. Of appeals and arguments. Of whether high functioning autism should even be a thing because if they’re clever enough to know they’ve got it, surely they’re clever enough to learn to cope with it. Of parents who are convinced there is something not right, of professionals who are convinced this is a genre of pushy parenting.

I suppose in my head I’d hoped I’d be written off as one of the over anxious ones. I mean the world and his wife knows I’m capable of inordinate amounts of irrational worry over ridiculous things; that I occasionally teeter on the brink of not being able to hold things together – this isn’t news, right? So the SCAT panel coming back with a non-diagnosis means I might feel slightly foolish, but as that’s how I spend most of my waking hours, no biggie there.

I’d also had moments of thinking the opposite; that if he was diagnosed with ASD that it would be a relief, because it would finally give us something to work with; that it might be helpful to him to start secondary school with a diagnosis on record; that being able to talk to him about there being a reason behind all the *stuff* might make the *stuff* easier for him to handle.

When the phone call came, the day after he left Primary school, I was totally knocked sideways. I didn’t feel relief at all. And when the letter arrived, which set out in black and white how he met each of the five criteria for a diagnosis of ASD, I still didn’t feel relief. More a mixture of guilt and fury. Guilt because had he had this diagnosis years ago, he would have had the support he needs sooner, and that lies at my door. Fury because although his teachers individually have been supportive (especially his Year 6 teacher who really has gone over and above in his efforts to support him and work with us) the school as a body did not engage with me or listen to my concerns about him until he hit major crisis point and a CAHMS referral in year 5. And then guilt again, because at the end of the day, I should not have allowed myself to be fobbed off for so long when I knew something was not right, even if I could not articulate exactly what that something was.

Fury and guilt are exhausting, but not as exhausting as the worry about how 11 will react to this, and how I can present it to him as something positive about himself that he can embrace. In fact that’s what this post was going to be about; I’ve discovered so many positive things about ASD over the last 16 months, and I’ve had many of my misconceptions shattered; I was all set to write a constructive and upbeat post about what next for 11 and how it’s all good, man….guess I’d forgotten how fingers and a keyboard sometimes drag stuff into the open that you didn’t even know was there.

I will write that post. Soon.