Why I love Mr Tumble

You know Mr Tumble. The spotty bag, the oversized bow tie, the red nose and baggy trousers…


I first came across Mr Tumble 4 or 5 years ago through my work with adults with Autism, but more recently have been receiving a daily dose of him as my 1 year old is really into Something Special.

Many of my friends with small children have a real dislike of Mr Tumble. The reasons seem to be something to do with him being a bit creepy and disconcerting. I get that clowns aren’t everyone’s cup of tea- in fact I’m really not a fan of traditional circus clowns because I don’t like not being able to see a person’s face. But I think Mr Tumble is different and I think that what Justin Fletcher has created (he’s the man behind Mr Tumble) really is something special and here’s why:

  1. I have seen first hand how people with Autism really connect with the character of Mr Tumble and the concept of the programme. It’s so touching to see an individual who for most of their life seems so withdrawn and disconnected become so animated and excited while watching Mr Tumble. There is something about the over exaggerated movements and facial expressions of a clown that can get through the Autism and the repetitiveness and predictability of the programme enable these individuals to feel comfortable with knowing what’s coming next.
  2. Since watching the programme with my little baby, I have seen a new dimension to Mr Tumble. Through the same largeness of the character and the lovely bright colours and shapes, she is learning about herself and her world. She recognises parts of the programme with specific sounds and music and she is responding to the words that are being said. When I ask her each morning if she wants to watch Mr Tumble she turns immediately and points at the TV smiling and waving her little arms. It’s exciting to see how this programme is supporting her development of words, sounds and associations.
  3. And finally I think I have a soft spot for Mr Tumble and Justin in Something Special (not in that way!) because there’s something that seems so genuine about him. He really enjoys being with the children and he interacts and responds to their special needs in such an open and accepting way. He’s not patronising, or performing for ulterior motives; he genuinely loves being with children. He’s described in an article here as having an ‘innate ability to communicate with children’ and I think that’s the nail on the head.

So I get it why grown ups might not be so keen, but when I watch people ranging from small babies through to adults with severe disabilities gaining so much pleasure from Justin’s creation, I can’t help but love him too.


Here are some more articles about Mr Tumble if you’re interested:

Interview with The Mirror

Interview with the BBC

Interview with the Guardian

10 Things I Thought I Would Never Do…

… and probably secretly mocked other people for doing until I had a baby:

  1. Pick someone else’s nose- bogie diving can be so rewarding!
  2. Change baby’s nappy and then smell it- even though I know it stinks because we had to evacuate the room she was sitting in at the time
  3. Lick my finger and rub food off someone else’s face- and no, I don’t just mean the baby here
  4. Lick the spoon when baby refuses that last mouthful- pumpkin, prune and apple puree isn’t actually that bad…
  5. Reheat a cup of tea in the microwave. Multiple times
  6. Leave the house wearing sick/snot/biscuit smeared trousers because I haven’t got the time (or clean clothes) to change
  7. Wipe a dribble of food from baby’s chin and then lick my finger clean because I don’t have a wipe or cloth nearby
  8. Discuss at length the shape, size, texture, smell, consistency and frequency of not only my baby’s poo, but that of all my friends’ babies
  9. Take baby to the bathroom with me when I go to the toilet. It feels a bit odd to be watched while weeing but better that than a screaming baby because I’ve left the room without her
  10. Sit and watch my baby sleeping because in that moment there is nothing else more important to do in the whole world.

Me, my baby and I


I wouldn’t usually put photos of our baby on the internet. She’s going to grow up in a world so different from the one in which I did, and I don’t want her to get to 18 and feel like she’s had no say in how many people in the world have seen images of her. I want that to be her decision.

But, I hear you say, you’ve gone and said all that right beneath a photo of your baby.

I know that. I was just explaining why I wouldn’t usually put up photos. And you’ll notice that this picture doesn’t show her face. That’s deliberate.

But I really like this picture and I wanted to share a thought about it.

This baby has had a really difficult week. She’s right in the middle of a growing phase, she’s getting frustrated by all the things that she can’t do, she’s been teething badly this week and she’s got a bit of a virus that might just be making her feel a little more miserable about the world. So while this has all meant that I’ve felt very maternal and loving towards her, wanting to take away her discomfort, wanting to help her to learn and wanting to soothe her pain, I feel like I too have had a difficult week. Or at least my ear drums have, because they’ve suffered the seemingly non-stop screaming and whinging.

A few days ago I decided that I couldn’t face going home where I knew everything I did would result in a little person throwing herself back angrily and shouting at me at the top of her lungs. So we went to some local gardens for a little walk. I bought a coffee and we sat in a quiet, secluded grassy area in the afternoon sun.

And as I sat among the peace of the trees, and smiled at the odd bumble bee bouncing between the clover, I looked at my baby girl and was hit again with the enormity of her existence. She tapped on the grass with Sophie (if you don’t know who Sophie is, ask someone with a small child) to see if it could be trusted and every now and then turned to me and grinned. I marvelled at everything she can do, at how much she has grown and changed in less than a year. I so often have to pinch myself to believe she is actually real because it all just seems too wonderful, too precious to be true.

It seems to me that it’s an important thing to do every now and then- to sit down together, away from everything and everyone else, and to be reminded of the joy and wonder that is my little girl.

Stretch marks and squishy bits

One of the thing that you are completely unprepared for when it comes to having a baby is the body that you get left with at the end of it. All I had ever thought about was what it would be like to gradually get bigger during pregnancy.

We care a lot about how we look. I think that I, along with thousands of other women across the country, struggle with Reflectionitis. This is a genuine affliction. If you don’t believe me then look it up for yourself. (Actually no, don’t do that.) But for all intents and purposes it could be a real thing.

Reflectionitis essentially refers to the condition where a person looks at themselves in a mirror and hates what they see. Other symptoms can include self-deprication, being overly self-critical and an assumption that when someone pays a compliment they are either lying or blind. I’m sure many of you will be able to associate with this.

Our society and our world constantly bombard us with the image of the perfect body. It is tanned, hairless, flat in all the ‘right’ places and curved in all the ‘right’ places and can most often be found on the cover of a magazine. In fact I don’t think there is anything more than a handful of bodies that naturally fit that description in the entire world, if any. Plunging the the rest of us into a permanent state of Reflectionitis.

So, having set the scene, we now come to a body that has produced another human being. Growing a baby is a really big deal, and when I began to produce a solar-eclipsing bump some of my lovely close friends asked me if I was feeling ok about my changing shape. I was delighted to be able to reply honestly that I really was ok. I loved my growing bump because of the life that was inside it.

But fast-forward almost 1 year and I will admit that I don’t love my changed body so much. Reflectionitis has reared it’s ever so perfectly made up head again. In place of the pride I felt at my huge bump, I now feel self-conscious about the new droopy and wobbly bits that have appeared. I had never known before, nor ever had cause to think, that growing a person and then transferring that person into the outside world would change my body in so many ways. It feels noticeable in how many of my clothes sit differently on me now that I have larger boobs, wider hips, a bigger waist.

I was lamenting my feelings of roundness to my husband recntly and he reminded me that my body is different now because it grew a person. I feel like you should read that last sentence again because it’s really important. My body was built with the capacity to grow another human being (with a little bit of help of course). I have spent the last few days trying to focus on that.

So when I look in the mirror and I start to feel the symptoms of Reflectionitis creeping back in, I try to deliberately look at the squishy bits, and the stretch marks and all the bits that are different now and I tell myself that these are souvenirs, trophies and awards. I bet my daughter thinks my body is great- it made her, grew her, sustained her, nurtured her and it continues to do so. Without my squidgy bits she wouldn’t be here.

So I propose a challenge, as much to myself as anyone else, to stop holding up an airbrushed model as our ideal body. It isn’t realistic, it isn’t natural and it actually seeks to erase all the beautiful and mysterious reminders of how amazing a mother’s body is in producing new life. I invite you to join me, whether you’ve had a baby recently or not. Let’s try to look in the mirror and smile.

Community. Really.

I’m not usually particularly vocal with my political views, but there’s something about having a baby that makes you that little bit more outspoken. Especially about things that affect her. So if you think that might be a problem, then I sincerely apologise, I simply want to share a few thoughts about something that’s been on my mind recently.

When my health visitor came to see us when baby was about 10 days old, she told me that there was a breastfeeding cafe that I might like to go to running at the local Sure Start Centre. I’d not really had anything to do with the Sure Start Centres before, but I was having a really rough time with breastfeeding so I decided to go, even though I was nervous.

From the first moment that I walked in and was greeted with smiles and asked how I was getting on, not just by the health visitors but the other mums there too, that group, and various others at the Sure Start Centre, have become the pivotal point around which my weeks revolve. I have met some wonderful people and we have shared many thousands of coffees and biscuits in cafes, each other’s homes and the Centre itself while we have discussed absolutely everything under the sun. From the colour of poo to nap times. From first weaning foods to ways of preventing dry skin. We have talked and talked about how each baby is learning, growing and developing and shared each other’s joys, pains and frustrations. This is community.

I have also become part of some ‘mum’ groups on Facebook, mostly for buying and selling baby things (which is a great money saver!). Although I don’t often ‘socialise’ through these, I see others doing so and receiving support and affirmation in their mumhood journeys. The other day a young mother had posted that she was heartbroken to be posting, but that she was selling a wrap sling because she desperately needed the money. Another mum suggested that rather than selling it, if 40 mums all gave her £1 then she could keep it and continue to have that important and lovely bond that is developed through baby wearing (that’s the fancy name for carrying your baby in a sling of some sort.). What followed was nothing short of a tirade of support and love for a mother that I imagine most people had never met. People giving all that they could even if it was a small amount and saying they knew how hard things can be. I think that this lovely bright purple wrap became a symbol for two things much bigger than it- the unconditional love a mother has for her children and the depth and value of being joined to one another in support and care. This is community.

We cannot live without each other. That I have always known to be true, and have found to be more true since having a baby. And here’s the political bit. The Sure Start Centres were set up as a way of bringing people together, sharing learning and helping parents come together to give their children the best start that they could. The region where I live really promoted these centres with 43 in total- that’s pretty much one in every locality. The ease of availability of the services provided- groups, courses and events, meant that no-one had to feel alone or without community. But now almost ¾ of the centres are being ‘redistributed’ (closed), including my nearest one. There is a real sense of community dissolving because even though the next one is only a 10 minute drive away, even this is a barrier to many.

People are meant to live in community. They are meant to share, learn and live alongside each other. I can’t help feeling that our current government, despite some of the things they say, actually don’t see the world this way because their actions speak about promoting the individual as a single unit rather than as part of a group. People are just individual items in their own house, their own car, sitting behind their own computer screen. And that’s not how the world should work. Community is beautiful and people thrive when they are together. When they can share what they have and receive from others. It is not a bad thing to rely on other people. This is how we are created. In fact there’s even a Bible verse that describes this very thing happening thousands of years ago. The people in the first churches shared everything they had and ensured that no-one was in need*. This is community.

I am anxious about the next few years with a Conservative government because I feel like instead of being encouraged to grow together in community, people are supported to work for themselves and to get as much as they can for themselves. In my view this is a very narrow-minded and selfish way to view the world. I am sad for the closures of the Sure Start Centres because I feel like a valuable piece of the community jigsaw is being taken away. It is hard enough for people to leave their houses and become entwined with others. It feels like it is just going to get even harder.

*Acts 2:42-47

High Heels and Half a Pint

I’ve said before that becoming a mum is to step onto a roller coaster of emotions and experiences. I was thinking the other day that it feels a bit like Rita at Alton Towers. You queue for hours and hours and you eventually get so uncomfortable and fed up that you’re just desperate to get into the seat and get on with it. And then you finally get there and have the bar drawn over your lap and before you know it there’s a massive bang, your head is flung back against the (not very cushioned) head rest and your eyes begin to sting with the force of the wind as the ride takes off at 60mph.

Since our wonderful daughter was born my life has been a whirlwind, and for as many new and beautiful layers that have been added to who I am, I couldn’t help but feel sometimes that other layers have been put on a shelf. The ‘Saturday morning lie in’ layer, the ‘wear whatever I want layer’, the ‘don’t have to worry about what time I go to bed’ layer and even the ‘eating food with dairy in’ layer.

So last week I suggested to my mum friends that we should try to find an evening where we could leave the babies with their dads and go down to the pub for just an hour and a half or so for a drink. I felt a real sense of renewal as I put on a dress that would have been unsuitable for breastfeeding and a pair of heels so high that I would have been nervous to wear them carrying a baby. A little over dressed you might think for a couple of hours at a very low key pub, but it felt like a special treat to myself and I really could feel a few more of those shelved layers being put back on.

I sat in that pub with my nails painted, proper make up on and a lovely half pint of dark ale in my hand and I was reminded that although I love my new life of changing nappies, soothing crying, delighting in baby giggles and marvelling at this new creation we have made, I do also love being just me.

Mumhood 2

Thanks to my wonderful and heroic ‘mum friends’ I have some new photos on the theme of mumhood.

These are photos that show the normal, everyday things that we do now that we’re mums, but that are possibly not that normal to other people!

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But I want to show that for every time we go to the toilet one handed with a baby on our lap, or turn a light switch off with our head, or get our hair pulled, or put a pair of socks on wriggly feet for the millionth time, we are not moving away from who we are, but adding to ourselves. I want to show that even though it sometimes feels that when you have a baby you stop being you and start being just a mum, this isn’t true. We become more of ourselves. We multi-task, we sacrifice, we clean up, we feed, wash, burp and change. But we do it gladly because we have become something more.

We gave life to these babies, but it’s them who have enriched our lives infinitely.

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And I want to show that although we rarely have time to shave our legs, or put on make-up, or go to the gym, or eat healthily, or do our hair, we are not any less womanly. I’ve said it before that having babies is earthy and messy, but it’s also wholesome, truly feminine and worth celebrating in all it’s bleary eyed exhaustion.


And thank you endlessly to my new friends for their willingness to be photographed doing the things that they, and I, do every day.