These Londoners turn tourists in London (and Dave pops along to do a bit of research for his next book)

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It’s a well known fact that as a proud Londoner, I have done absolutely nothing to understand the fascination tourists have with my home city. In fact, if I know a spot is a tourist trap, I’ll do everything in my power to avoid it. Firstly, because like most Londoners, I can’t afford the tourist attractions because I’m too busy spending my money on a mortgage and Ubers and secondly, it’s the hidden parts of London that I adore the most, the bits that I’ve discovered that don’t come in the guidebooks, the hidden gems only the Londoners know about.

Of course, once I had my son, I found myself caving in on my strong avoid-the-tourist-trap views and showed him both the London I love and the London the world loves. We went to the museums, the galleries, the London 2012 Olympics and all manner of attractions but there were a bunch of places we didn’t manage to see and in a spizzwhopping week of ticking these off our London bucket list before we leave, we turned tourists and dusted off an ancient A-Z.

In this next instalment of Halfway Round the World with the Haddows, you’ll get to see all the touristy things we did in our last week and Phoenix, who has been invited back to the blog despite is unhelpful debut on Halfway Round the World with the Haddows, is going to give you an interesting fact he learnt about each place:

First up, the shiny and very impressive Buckingham Palace. Unfortunately, the Queen wasn’t in but Dave Pigeon did join us on this first leg of the London tour for crucial research for his new book Dave Pigeon (Royal Coo!), which is out in March 2019.

Phoenix: Did you know the hall were they hold state dinners can fit up to 72 buses?

Next up: the London Eye. We braved the forty minute queue, entertaining ourselves by singing almost the entire album of The Greatest Showman and drinking two huge slushies, (which I do not recommend because the London Eye hangs right over the Thames and inevitably, the minute you get on and they shut the door and you can’t get off, you’ll need the toilet).

Phoenix: The London Eye used to be the world’s tallest ferris wheel. It’s not anymore.

As we were just around the corner from the London Dungeons, it made sense we finally visited them. The dungeons were definitely not as scary as we thought they might be but Phoenix has found a chilling fact for you anyway.

Phoenix: A few years ago, one of the skeletons at the original London Dungeons was discovered to be actual human remains.

With Dippy the Diplodocus on his UK tour, we took a trip to the Natural History Museum to meet Hope, the blue whale skeleton, who has taken Dippy’s iconic place in the Hintze Hall.

Phoenix: Blue whale poo is pink because of all the krill they eat.

This next one was on my London bucket list. I’m ashamed to say, as a lover of pies and mash, I have never had an actual east end pie and mash. Fear not, this has now been rectified with a trip to F. Cooke in East London for the full works and at the mere cost of £3.95. The experience came complete with a grumpy eastender and a union jack.

Phoenix: Pie and mash and liquor is pie and mash and parsley sauce. Liquor sauce is not alcohol; I had to Google this because the man serving us was a bit grumpy and didn’t seem in the mood to answer all my questions.

Finally, and definitely not in London but still must-sees, were two UNESCO sites: Stonehenge and the Roman Baths. We’d driven past Stonehenge a few times on the way to the in-laws but this time we stopped off to look at the ancient wonder in all its glory.

Phoenix: There are two types of stone: the little ones are bluestone and the big ones are sarsen and they are all very heavy.

I’d missed out on a school trip to the Roman Baths so this one had been on my bucket list for nearly twenty-three years. Despite the sudden downpour and feeling very much liked I’d had a bath fully-clothed, the Roman Baths did not disappoint and I was left awestruck at how the Roman stonework had remained in good nick for two thousand years.

Phoenix: People were allowed to swim in the baths up until 1978. That was when my dad was born. My mum says the two events are not related.

Archie is off to New Zealand!

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This week on Halfway Round the World with the Haddows, the first member of Family Haddow is off to New Zealand. That’s right, our dog, Archie, has jumped aboard a flight to Singapore, where he will have a break to stretch his legs and buy a box of doggie shortbread from doggie duty free, before he gets on a flight to New Zealand for the final leg of his journey.

It was an emotional goodbye, though Archie was in high spirits and very excited to meet Peter the handler. We are missing him so much so I apologise if you find members of Family Haddow hanging around the dog park, looking for dogs to cuddle.

Here we are, trying to get a final selfie with Archie, outside our home…

…That’s Phoenix, giving Archie a huge cuddle before saying goodbye…

…And here’s Archie in Singapore, investigating lots of new sights and smells.

You might be wondering why Archie set off without us. It’s not because we asked him to go ahead and sort out a place for us to stay because we would all end up on a tiny couch with him if he had his way. It’s because New Zealand has rules about pets entering the country and one of those is that dogs must spend ten days in quarantine before they can be allowed into New Zealand legally.

The quarantine area is based near the airport and when we arrive next month we can go straight to Archie and pick him up. It will be a Family Haddow reunion full of hugs, kisses, nose boops and belly tickles.

Safe travels, my love, my Archie. We will see you very soon.

Phoenix: How I Got A Nintendo 3DS…

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Readers, Family Haddow is moving to New Zealand! That’s right! We’re packing up our fart sacks and heading to the Godzone. And you can read all about it in this new blog series…

Me: Today, I’m inviting my son, Phoenix, to the blog, as part of a series we’re calling Halfway Round the World with the Haddows, where we let you in on all that is going on with our big move to New Zealand in September. Welcome, Phoenix.

Phoenix: Thank you for having me, Mama.

Me: Today we are talking about us leaving the UK and setting up our new home in New Zealand. How are you feeling about it?

Phoenix: Before we start, I would like to let fans of my first comic ‘Zombie Cat’ know that my next two comics ‘Splat Zone’ and ‘The Dragon’ will be available for £1 each-

Me: Erm, excuse me. This is not eBay. This is my blog. We talk about my books.

Phoenix: And mine.

Me: No. Get your own blog.

Phoenix: I’ll just use yours.

Me [hard stare]: No.

Phoenix [mumbles]: OK, Mama.

Me: Back to New Zealand. How are you feeling?

Phoenix: I’m feeling quite nervous but excited. I’m nervous about moving and if I can fit all my stuff on the boat. But I’m excited because it’s a big adventure and we are going to have a really fun time and I’ve been promised a swimming pool, a treehouse and a Nintendo 3DS.

Me: Well, eventually you can get those things one day, in the future, perhaps…

Phoenix: That’s not what you said, when you needed my vote to move.

Me: I don’t actually remember promising those things.

Phoenix: You did promise. You have a bad memory. I remember these things.

Me: So anyway, what are you looking forward to the most when we get to New Zealand?

Phoenix: I’m really looking forward my swimming pool, my treehouse and my Nintendo 3DS and hopefully seeing the All Blacks play.

Me [ignores Phoenix’s remarks about a swimming pool, treehouse and Nintendo]: Why don’t you tell the folks reading this about where we are going?

Phoenix: We are going to Christchurch, which is on the South Island. I’ve never been before but my mummy and daddy went there ages ago for their honeymoon-

Me: It wasn’t our honeymoon.

Phoenix: Where was your honeymoon then?

Me: Cuba!

Phoenix: Oh. OK. So they went to New Zealand for no reason ages ago.

Phoenix leaves the room to go to the toilet.

Me: …

Me: …

Me: …

Me [makes cup of tea]: …

Me: …

Me: …

Me: [shouts at bathroom door]: Thank you Phoenix for your insights.

Only fifteen more sleeps until the epic journey to New Zealand begins, folks.

A Winter Surprise in One Snowy Night

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We might have just come through a heatwave and it might be raining today but I’m feeling all wintery this afternoon because I’ve got my mitts on an advanced copy of One Snowy Night, the latest wintery anthology of animal tales, published by Stripes Publishing.

Gorgeously illustrated throughout, in black and white, by the very talented Alison Edgson, there are ten stories in this collection, including A Winter Surprise by me! I’m so proud to see my work in this book, alongside legendary writers such as Holly Webb and Jeanne Willis.

Find out all about a squirrel called Jumbie and how he learns to accept the hand of friendship in A Winter Surprise, in One Snowy Night, when the book hits the bookshelves this October.

Dave Pigeon at Edinburgh International Book Festival

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I’m back from an incredible couple of days at Edinburgh International Book Festival, where Sheena and I were running our story-building and villain design workshop for the first time in bonnie Scotland.

Edinburgh did not disappoint. Despite the rain, we had an AMAZING time, catching up with fellow authors and illustrators and most of all, spending a wonderful couple of days with fellow book-lovers. Here are a couple of snaps from our adventure north:

Fan art by the super-talented Alma

That’s Sheena and I with super-poet Joe Coelho, outside the cafe where JK Rowling created Harry Potter. 

And that’s me and the legendary Frank Cottrell-Boyce

Thank you so much to the staff and volunteers who made our stay in Edinburgh so special.

Introducing Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise

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The wait is finally over and I can introduce Little Rabbit’s Big Surprise, my brand new book, illustrated by the immensely talented Alison Friend, publishing with Stripes in February 2019.

The Stripes team came to me late last year with their gorgeous Little Rabbit and asked if I would like to write her story as part of a new colour fiction range they were launching for emerging readers.

I fell head over heals for Little Rabbit and couldn’t believe my luck when I was paired with Alison. I’m a massive fan of her work and I can’t wait for you to see the book in the flesh because it is utterly gorgeous. For now, I shall leave you with this sneaky peek at the book:

Mean Cat gets her day at Roehampton Reads Festival

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I was flying solo today as Sheena was away but I felt right at home at Heathmere Primary School, where deputy headteacher, Ben Cooper, had organised the first ever Roehampton Reads Festival.

In honour of firsts, we started the session with a floss off, I decided to read from the first Dave Pigeon book and today, we let Mean Cat have her moment in the spotlight for the first time. After all, it must be hard for a cat who despises pigeons to star in a book, nay a series, about a pigeon.

The young illustrators and writers who joined me today helped write Mean Cat’s story using the fold-over technique.

One young writer would write the first part, fold the paper over so no one else could see it and then the next writer would write the next part and fold over and so on and so forth. Trust me, it made sense and it worked!

Thank you so much to everyone who came along and created amazing artwork and stories. And huge thanks to Ben, Heathmere Primary School and the Alligator’s Mouth for such a wonderful day.

Dave Pigeon (Racer!) is a Best New Children’s Books 2018

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It’s three in a row! I’m so happy to say that Dave Pigeon (Racer!) has made it into today’s ‘Best New Children’s Books’ supplement in The Guardian, following in the (pigeon) steps of book siblings Dave Pigeon and Dave Pigeon (Nuggets!).

The supplement, as ever, is packed full of brilliant new children’s books to celebrate Independent Bookshop Week so do grab a copy if you get a chance and definitely head down to your nearest independent bookshop and show them some love.