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Archive for the ‘Humor’ Category

I Love My Job

“I love my job!”

 

How many times do you hear people say that?

 

Not often, I can guarantee.

 

But I say it almost every time I go out to work.

 

Granted , in my 20 years of being a London Children’s Entertainer  there have been times where I have reminded myself of the fact that ‘This is why it is called work ( and not play) ” and I have put my nose to the metaphorical grindstone ( the alternative would be a bit ouchy!) and got on with the job of being an entertainer and puppeteer . Those few times have usually been when I was faced with difficult circumstances like noise ( usually the grown-ups on the sauce I’m afraid…no , not ketchup!) or just too much being thrown at the children all at once. I can’t stress enough times that with small children, just throwing money at the problem isn’t going to solve it. With small children , less is most often more. Give them a chance to focus and you will be amazed at how much they can focus.

But, I can count on the fingers of one hand all the times  I’ve not found work that fun. That isn’t bad going when I’ve been doing this puppeteering /entertainment lark for 20 years now.

 

Last weekend was no exception. I started off on the Friday at a birthday party for lovely Otto. He was turning three and I was so delighted to be returning to this family after 8 years. They had used my puppeteering and entertainment services all those years ago for their last child when he was three. Now the big brother was 11! It was wonderful to keep this 3rd birthday party tradition going and to witness the older brother joining in from the back, still giggling at the same jokes he had enjoyed all those years ago, now he was sharing in the fun with his little brother. It was touching indeed to be part of this celebration. I sometimes feel I have the privilege of entering children’s memories as that silly lady who made them laugh at their birthday. What a wonderful position to be in.

So that was Friday.

Saturday I was up bright and early and off to a morning party for the lovely Victoria. She was turning 4 . We had a blast, Victoria especially loved my puppet Fifi the Fairy.

Fairy puppet Fifi

Fifi eating her wand

Fifi gave out hugs and kisses at the end.

The lovely Victoria hugging Fifi ( identity protected)

Victoria and Diane after the party

He’s behind you!

So Victoria waved goodbye to Fifi and went off home to open all her presents. I jumped into my waiting cab and zoomed off to my next party.

Uma was turning 5 , we had a wonderful time, again with Fifi the fairy  as we told the story of how Fifi turned her teacher into a Birthday Witch whilst trying to make a Birthday Wish… ( see what I did there?)

Witchy Poo Poo was a great hit.

Witchy Poo in all her witchy glory

Again I was mistaken for Rosie. Easy mistake to make I suppose.

spot the difference… it’s the glasses isn’t it?

I think Uma enjoyed her party, so much so that she burst into tears at the end of the show . She didn’t want it to end. But after a reassuring cuddle from Fifi the fairy,  I left a very happy Uma and went home to witness Chelsea winning the Champions League.

I thought nothing of it until the morning when I tried to book my cab to go to my Sunday morning in … Chelsea!

The controller calmly informed me that roads were being closed in Chelsea to prepare for the Champions League Victory Parade and that I wouldn’t be able to get through to my gig.

PANIC!

After a bit of begging and pleading and cajoling, ( and giving him the exact address) we worked out between us that it was the posh end of Chelsea that I was going to , not the football end. So we’d give it a go. I gave myself a good hour to get there to deal with any traffic and crossed fingers , toes , eyes, legs and arms.

As it turned out, there was no traffic at all! In fact the roads were much clearer than normal. Maybe people were staying away fearing congestion? Who knows. All I know is I got to the Christening party in such good time , I was happy I’d taken my crochet. ( I’m an avid crocheter as well as being a puppet lady. I make stuff based on rainbows and fairies. I’m just a big kid at heart)

Stuff I make.

Well that was a very lovely day at the ‘office’ . So many parents stayed to watch and they laughed at my jokes and cooed at the little ones playing Sleeping Bunnies with Bobby Bunny during the show. It is a joy to watch the parents faces when I’m behind my puppet theatre as they witness their kids having so much fun. Sometimes I see a tear or two. It’s touching.

Mummy came up to me at the end and said I was awesome  and that she’d never seen her son so engaged and enthralled.

Gosh.

*Blushes*.

Waving bye bye to the lovely children , I jumped into my waiting chariot ( cab) and  went forth to my next engagement.

Lucia was turning 3 and she was the very lucky girl who was going to have a puppet show in her very own bedroom! How exciting!

From my perspective, a little challenging, as the space was fairly limited and I was going to end up with a bunch of shy kids sitting really close to me and my puppets . I would have to work hard to engage their trust quickly otherwise I knew from experience that crying fever could sweep through that small space. ( Once one goes, the rest follow, I’ve found)

Well, I worked hard on my self deprecation. ( I’m a silly sausage, cheeky nunkey( sic) ) That always helps. My monkey calls me names and I don’t get cross. This seems to reassure little children that I’m an alright person pretty quickly. Plus it’s really silly and funny. If I can  make children laugh in the first two minutes then I’m happy that the rest of the party will be fine.

It worked. Mummy sent me a sweet thank you email afterwards saying that Lucia is still talking about the puppet show that happened in her room. Result!

 

So yes, I love my job.

The hours are great, the clients are wonderful, and the best thing of all is the job satisfaction. There’s nothing quite like the emotional connection that you get from children. When they like you, they REALLY like you.

Mind you, the flip side of that is that if they don’t like you, they walk away.

 

I better make sure I keep my standards up.

It’s a good life.

 

 

 

 

How I became a Flairy : Or childhood dreams fulfilled.

Today was a good day.

Weather wise it couldn’t have been nicer. The sun was out and the temperature was unseasonably warm for the time of year. I woke up fresh and early , put on my work clothes , ribbons and all, packed my suitcase full of my handmade puppets and set off for a morning gig at a lovely Nursery , Puddleducks in Putney , South West London.

Kids entertainer and puppeteer Diane of Diane's Puppets

My work hairdo, jolly huh?

I trundled off down the road heading for the train station, dragging my pink suitcase full of my puppets behind me. The sun beat down and the birds sang. ‘Life is good’ , I thought.

I managed to catch the train without having to wait , a minor miracle in itself, and I settled down for an uneventful journey.

I hadn’t bargained on the very charming very old man who sat down next to me. Granted he was a little grubby, and worse for wear, it looked like he struggled to maintain a certain standard of dress but he was very old , so who was I to judge? I was certainly dressed in a rather unusual fashion with my ribbons and my gold sequined top and purple skirt festooned with butterflies, dragons and flowers. Most commuters gave me a wide berth on public transport usually, to be frank. Difference is often viewed with scepticism  in London ( there are so many nutters unusual characters about, it is just a part of London life and London caution and reserve).

This lovely man embarked on a question and answer session that would have made Michael Parkinson proud. He interviewed me thoroughly, grilling me ( in the nicest possible way) about my job as a children’s entertainer and puppeteer. Most people dismiss my job quickly as I don’t fit the usual model of adult in the workplace. It was highly unusual that this old gentleman kept saying how serious my job was and how difficult it must be to work with such young children. It was wonderful to have such validation from such a sage man, here was someone who naturally understood my #Respectthesilly campaign. As the train pulled into the station, we both got up to leave and this gentleman started to thank me for speaking to him, over and over again.

Maybe because of the way he was turned out, most people shunned him and wouldn’t talk to him? Maybe he was very lonely? To me he seemed like a wonderful old soul who was there to reassure me that I was on the right path in my life’s journey. Call me silly if you want.

So, after this most unusual start, I got to the nursery and began my first session with the under two’s. It was too sweet to see those little ones playing Sleeping Bunnies with my bunny puppet

s,ee

See the little bunnies sleeping

Diane and her puppets

Me and Bobby Bunny and Tabitha cat

I even had these tiniest of clients telling me the animals names in Old Macdonald’s Farm. They were clever little children. Clearly the Nursery is doing a very good job.

Of course there were cuddles all around from my ‘Easter’ bunny Bobby and my baby monkey Twinkle.

After that sweet session with the under 2’s I moved across the playground to the older children. As I crossed the playground, one of the mummies was dropping off her little boy. She stopped in her tracks when she saw me. ” I know you” she said. “I’ve seen you at a party before”. I  agreed that that possibility was most likely , after all I have been puppeting for over 18 years now. That same mummy turned to the Head of Nursery and said, “That’s Diane, she’s famous!”

I smiled. One aim ticked off my bucket list: to be famous for a talent.

I’m probably famous amongst the Under 5’s in London, well sort of.

What other sort of fame could I possibly want?

Well, we had a ball! Hopping with Bobby the Easter Bunny, laughing and quacking with Mummy Duck and her babies.

And all of her five little ducks came back!

It was when I was preparing the children to meet my puppet Fairy Fifi

Fairy puppet Fifi

Fifi eating her wand

and showing the children the fairy toadstools on my skirt

Magical toadstools where fairies live.

when the children came alive with their own stories of fairy sightings. One young boy’s voice rang out above the other excited enthusiastic contributers and he said: ” I saw a flairy ( sic) in my garden today and she looked like you!”

So that was my childhood dream and ambition fulfilled right there in that moment. I had always wanted to grow up to be a fairy but at a hardly delicate UK size 16 , I had all but given up on that ambition. This young lad had just confirmed that I had reached my goal.

So there you have it ladies and gentleman. I am now officially a f(l)airy, a rather substantial,a little older and a feminist fairy , but a fairy nevertheless.

An old man and a young boy made my dreams come true today.

This feminist fairy is very happy and grateful.

 

 

 

A Case Of Mistaken Identity…Or Was It?

It’s been a busy few days.

In my job as a children’s party entertainer, puppeteer and face painter, I do get to meet lots of lovely children. Today was no exception.

I spent the morning in  sunny Kensingtonat a lovely party for Eva. She is a delightful little girl with very lovely, caring parents. We spent a good forty five minutes giggling with my puppets, in fact one young boy was laughing so hard he could hardly get his breath. Twinkle the Baby Monkey

Twinkle, my very cheeky baby monkey. A dear friend.

charmed the children with his refusal to say hello and his banana trumpet,  Bobby Bunny

Bobby Bunny puppet for birthday parties

Diane's favourite puppet bunny, Bobby.

played Sleeping Bunnies with 20 or so chuckling children and naughty bunny that he is, snored when he was supposed to be sleeping and kept shouting out Tuna fish! (You have to be there to understand). Trust me, if your sense of humour is like mine, it’s all hilarious.  Fifi the naughty baby fairypuppet

Fairy puppet Fifi from Diane's Puppets

Look at her pretty hair!

got all the words wrong to Twinkle Twinkle and Baa Baa Black Sheep but managed to give lovely twinkle toes wishes to sweet 3 year old Eva and sing Happy Birthday in her own inimitable style. Hilarity was all topped off with a good old jumping on the bed session with Jaffa the Monkey.

During the lunch session, I was on duty face painting. I painted numerous butterflies with twinkly noses , flower fairies, a lion, a tiger , a bunny and a few kittens. Face painting little children is so rewarding. It’s all about that moment when you show them their completed painted faces in the mirror. That magical moment when their faces light up and the smile crinkles across their cheeks, it’s just the best feeling . The last child I painted today was a sweet, shy girl who didn’t put herself forward for face painting immediately. In fact, I wasn’t sure she wanted her face painted, but I was ready to pack up and needed to make sure that she didn’t want to have a go first before I made my way to the next party. After all, no one likes to disappoint children. So I smiled at her and gestured towards my chair, asking her gently if she would like her face painted. She was a little reticent but after  a little cajoling she had her face painted as a very delicate flower fairy.

It was time for the big reveal. I picked up the mirror and held it in front of her face.

There it was, that wonderful smile that made the eyes twinkle.

She ran off to her mummy, clearly very delighted with the result and maybe just a little bit proud of her courage.

” Mummy,Rosie painted my face!” she kept exclaiming, over and over again.

“But that lady’s name is Diane”, said mummy.

“No mummy, Rosie did it” insisted my little flower fairy.

I decided Rosie was a lovely name and accepted it with grace.

At the next party in the afternoon, also in Kensington , after painting rainbow butterflies, spiderman and a host of flower fairies, princesses and notably for the very first time of my 18 years of face painting, a volcano(!) another child referred to me as Rosie to her mummy. I mentioned to this mummy that that was the second time today and did she know why ?

Rosie is on CBeebies. She is a ragdoll character who wears ribbons in her hair.

AAAAAh! So that’s it!

Spot the difference.

This is Rosie

This is me.

 London Kids entertainer and puppet show provider Diane

Rainbow on my head

I know,  I know. Totally indistinguishable.

I love my job. The life of a children’s party entertainer is just full of surprises!

If you’d like “Rosie” ( aka Diane aka me ) to come to your child’s party, just pop over to my website www.dianes-puppets.co.uk to find out more about my party entertainment service.

Diane’s Puppets: Children’s puppet parties to remember with fantastic facepainting and giggles galore.

A Face Paint Fiasco

Here is Aunty Lena and her wonderful hat and myself with Fifi the fairy.

Anyone who knows me  and Diane’s Puppets over the years, will know that for over ten years I was more than ably assisted by my dear friend ‘Aunty Lena’. We made a formidable team, being best friends gave us a natural rapport and an understanding that didn’t need much communication to work. We simply knew what each other was thinking.

Having a laugh with Aunty Lena

Lena would also assist me with the face painting during the tea time.

Aunty Lena face painting

When I first approached Lena about working with me, she said ” I’ll do anything but I won’t be able to face paint”. Oh woman of little faith. You turned out to be a face painter of much merit, able to turn out fast and delicate faces with a deft touch and always with a silly sense of humour and a gentle manner.

The picture speaks for itself, never easy to face paint a one year old, but here is a very happy little baby with sweet flowers.

Too sweet for words

So, Aunty Lena was able to tackle most challenges in the face painting department, including rising to tractors and even racing cars. Not bad for someone who claimed not to have any artistic merit.

However, there was one memorable exception: the notorious, hysterical case of the rocket.

Picture the scene, a busy party, lots of mums are standing around chatting while the rest of the children are eating their tea.  A sweet four year old girl sits down in front of you, eyes wide and excited, looking forward to being face painted. After asking what she wants, you start to paint a rocket.  It’s not looking quite right so you ask the other person to help you. That other person was me.

I looked over at sweet four year old to see her with a white rocket shaped object , but with a red triangular tip on her cheek. Child is blissfully unaware of the two ladies in front of her starting to giggle.

I realised the rocket was missing engines.

Paint some engines on, I suggested. That should do it.

NOOOOOOOOOO!

Both of us realised what we had done was inadvertently ended up painting a rather gruesome phallic looking thing on this very sweet and innocent girls face.

That’s when the giggles started to take over. Aunty Lena couldn’t speak for laughter, tears were streaming down her face as she realised how inappropriate this face paint had become. Quite innocently of course, but there it was, a four year old girl with a very rude looking face paint.

I hastily reached for baby wipes and started over, tears running down my face.

We both hoped none of the yummy mummies had witnessed our fiasco.

Aunty Lena avoided rockets from then on. I tackle ( no pun intended fnar fnar) them carefully to avoid repeating any  similar situations.

I mean what was that little girl thinking asking for a rocket anyway ? What’s wrong with a fairy?

( As a very dedicated feminist , that last statement is not to be taken seriously )

 

 

Aunty Lena now works in Morley Gallery but remains my loyal and lovely and very delightfully silly friend.

Ah those were the days.

 

Mermaids have more fun

Oh the things I do for love.

 

The love of my job that is.

My job as a London Children’s Entertainer and birthday puppet show provider keeps me on my toes, or my fishy tail.

 

I’ve had a request to do a mermaid themed party. Being a lady who likes a challenge, I’ve been exploring all things mermaid and am excited at the creative possibilities of the theme. I’ve unearthed my 20 year old carrier bag full of sea shells that I collected yes, twenty years ago with the idea of doing something creative with them. Who says that hoarding isn’t a useful habit? I’m about to put them to good use after 20 years. I’m still not quite sure what I’m going to do with them as yet, but something grotto-ish will be inevitable.

I’ve found a use for that long blonde wig that I’ve had hanging around for some reason I can’t even remember. I decided to paint my face as a mermaid and try out the mermaid long blonde look.

Oh dear.

Why do wigs make me look like a man in drag?

I thought I’d look like this

My mermaid puppet

 

But instead I got this:

I don't look quite how I expected to look. Sigh.

At least the face painting looks nice

 

I’m not sure that blonde is my colour. I can’t believe I bleached my hair for over 20 years. I’m so glad I’ve found my sense in my forties.

I’m not sure the pearlised white base is terribly flattering for late 40’s skin either…

So I took the wig off.

Ah that's better.

 

I think I shall stick to being a brunette mermaid with grey streaks.

 

 

Banana selling point

All successful businesses need a USP : a unique selling point. For the last 15 years or so I’ve thought that it was my ability to combine entertainment and fast face painting into one party package. This saves lots of money eliminating the need to book a separate face painter.

Fantasy eye make up for big girls

A fast and pretty butterfly

I suppose not many entertainers can offer that, hence the unique part of the USP.  I’m always complimented on my fast and delicate face painting. Of course, there is always a slight compromise on detail when it comes to speed but I do try and make the face painting as detailed and delicate as I possibly can in the time allotted. Do stop by my website to have a look at the different packages I offer including face painting. They start from as little as £140 for 90 minutes.

Well that was up until today.

What changed?

Well let me set the scene.

I was in full swing, entertaining some lovely London children at a delightful 5 year old girl’s birthday party( thank you for inviting me Asha), raising giggles and smiles all around. As per usual , I was starting the entertainment off with my baby monkey puppet, Twinkle. He is a very well loved and remembered character in my repertoire, one of the very few shop bought puppets that I use.

Twinkle, my very cheeky baby monkey. A dear friend.

Actually, before I get to the crux of the story, let me tell a little bit about my current Twinkle. He isn’t the original one that I bought around 10 years ago from that massive toyshop in Regents Street, London. He  belongs to a girl who now must be in her teens. She was one of my little clients who had fallen in love with Twinkle and had begged her mum and dad to buy her one from the same shop. So they did, lovely parents that they were.

The next time I was invited to the little girls house to entertain for her birthday party, she ran up the stairs anxiously telling me to wait. She came charging down the stairs in great excitement, clutching her ‘Twinkle’.

‘Please can we swap?’ She pleaded. I couldn’t possibly turn her earnest request down. How could I disappoint such a sweet little girl? So we swapped, despite her monkey looking very well cuddled.

I only hope that she wasn’t expecting that now she had the ‘real’ Twinkle that he would talk like he talked when I used him at parties. She would be so disappointed.

So I was at the point in the routine that Twinkle plays tunes on a plastic banana. ( It’s hard to explain, suffice it to say it’s very silly) . He plays Happy Birthday to the birthday girl on the banana. It was at that point that it hit me!

THIS IS MY UNIQUE SELLING POINT!

What other London Children’s Entertainer wishes happy birthday to their client with a monkey playing tunes on a banana? Who else could top this triumph of silliness?

The Magic of Puppets

 

I’m not a great fan of magic; unless we’re talking Dynamo ( now he is just special).

You know what I mean, that flouncy, hand wafting, mis-directional camp affair that passes for performance on the Las Vegas stage. David Blaine used to intrigue me until he locked himself in a cube and went without dinner for a while. That killed it for me.

Most birthday party entertainers do some magic.

I don’t. Why is that?

I’m a terrible liar.

Without wanting to give the game away to those who really and truly believe in magic,  magic is all about lying. It’s about illusion, convincing people that stuff that is impossible is real.

To be a convincing magician, you have to be able to look people in the eye and say ‘That’s magic’, in inimitable Paul Daniels fashion. I’m not capable of that, I’m afraid.

If I did magic, I’d just want to tell children how it is done; that would make me a bit of a killjoy. I’d rather not. I’d rather stick to puppet magic.

I can’t even mislead children when they tell me that the puppets I use aren’t real. I agree, well, in a manner of speaking. I tell them that the puppet is real,  but that the animal /character isn’t real. After all, it would be really scary if the monkey puppet I was using was a real monkey, and a talking one at that. Now that would really freak me out, let alone a bunch of children. That honest explanation seems to put children at ease, especially when I explain that the puppet has to borrow my voice to speak. I’m  not a ventriloquist, nor do I try to be. I don’t find it necessary. For me the magical aspect of puppetry is that the puppeteer brings the puppet to life through belief. If the puppeteer believes in the puppet, the puppet will animate and be believable as a character in it’s own right.

As a child, my first experience of puppets was Mr Punch on the seafront at Skegness Beach.

Watching Mr Punch , age 5

Mr Punch in turn thrilled and repelled me. I couldn’t understand his squeaky raspy voice or why he was hitting Judy with his slapstick but I didn’t really care. What I saw was strange and fascinating and other-wordly. I was hooked.

Off to the beach with mummy.

Shari Lewis‘s Lamb Chop, the gorgeous sock puppet won my heart on our black and white television. Then with the advent of colour television came Basil Brush.

Basil Brush

Image via Wikipedia

He was real to me then and still is now. I cannot imagine Basil the lovely English gentleman fox with his distinguishing laugh      ( Ha ha ha ha ha ..BOOM BOOM!)

having a person attached to him. To my child’s eyes he wasn’t a puppet, he was just Basil : the fox that spoke. There was no other explanation needed.

Then along came Thunderbirds.

That show messed with my head.

Those puppets looked so real to me . I remember having a real problem working out whether they were real ( as in real actors) or not. I saw the awkward walk ( beautifully lampooned in Team America) and doubted my convictions , then they would put in a close up of a real hand operating machinery and I would be back to my original idea that they were indeed real people. So confusing.

I see this interesting quandary echoed on my children clients faces every time I enter into the magic of puppets. I can see their eyes questioning how real the puppets are every time they engage and invest in the puppet’s personality. When it all gets to much for them then they ask the question if they are real.

My answer satisfies them enough for them to still talk to the puppet once it is off my hand and back in the suitcase, shouting their goodbyes at the empty shell of the puppet.

Now that’s  the sort of magic I love.

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