I have some amazing memories of birthday parties as a kid, whether it was mine or someone else’s.

I can remember one football party in particular at a place near Hearts’ Tynecastle Stadium (I think the place is now long gone) where we played 5-a-side for hours before an array of sausage rolls, party rings and ice cream that culminated in a huge food fight.

I can also recall visits to the beach (yes, in Scotland and yes, it was freezing) and a number of different country parks but, thanks in part to the weather, the majority of the parties took place indoors at places like trampoline centres and soft-plays where huge ball pits often played a major role.

Almost thirty years on (ouch) you would think the only time I’d be found in a ball pit would be with Marley and his little friends…..but how wrong you would be!

Last night, I rolled back the clock and spent the evening messing around in a ball pit at Ballie Ballerson, London’s famous ball pit cocktail bar.

Ballie Ballerson

I wasn’t initially sure about it. I mean, ball pits are awesome. And there are of course infinite, infantile jokes to be made about playing with balls. I just wasn’t convinced it could keep us entertained for any serious amount of time on a night out.

But as soon as you step into the ball pit (no jumping allowed, sadly) an involuntary smile crosses your face and it just takes you back to that pure, childish enjoyment you can’t replicate in many other ways.

Getting in amongst the balls (sorry) was surprisingly relaxing too, and just laying there and enjoying watching people throwing the balls at each other and filming endless Instagram videos with smiles permanently etched on their faces was actually pretty good fun.

And every so often, an impromptu ball fight would break out with the other people in the pit (yes, you’re in there with total strangers).

I reckon the place could do with having one or two actual games to play when in the ball pit, or perhaps little competitions to play with other groups, just to make you feel like you get a little more for your money. At £16 a head and with drinks at £6.50 each, it’s not exactly a cheap option and places like Flight Club or Bounce Ping Pong definitely offer a bit more longevity in terms of activity.

But as ever, I fully enjoyed embracing my inner child – which is just as well, since the average age in the place was probably around 18.

It was a great night. I’m just grateful that I had Superman on hand to help me out with the inevitable hangover.


Five tips for a fading five-a-side player

No matter how often I hit the gym, or go for a bike ride, or brave the elements to go for a run…..

….nothing – ever – prepares me for the aftermath of a grueling game of 5-a-side football.

Why does it hurt so much?

I could do a triathlon every week (no I couldn’t) but I’d still ache like hell if I played just one hour of football; twisting and turning and trying to sprint on a little fives pitch.

And these days, it’s not only the next day that it hurts. I played a game last week – my first in about six months – and I was still groaning a full 48hrs later. I had a bath, stretched (well, tried to…) and rested, but it still took me three full days to feel normal again.


My legs get the worst of it. I wake up the next morning barely able to lift them out of bed. They do get better as the day goes on….but then I go to sleep again and when I wake up the next morning, they’re even worse.

My back aches too. My hips hurt. The squidgy bit just above the hips (that isn’t even supposed to be there in the first place!) is achey too.

Is this age? Or is this just what being a dad is?

Or……is my body finally telling me to stop trying to be what I will never, ever be and just restrict myself to the odd brisk walk?

Well, maybe not….

Joanne Groves, an educator, author and exercise trainer based in Wimbledon and with 20 years’ experience in the fitness industry, tells me there may be life in the old dog yet!

Joanne Groves is an exercise trainer, educator, mentor, presenter, stand-up comedian and actress!!

“The reason for the soreness is due to a couple of factors”, Joanne told me.

(Booze and dirty food…?)

“It’s a lack of specific preparation, and therefore a lack of conditioning” she said. “The soreness is often described as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and can leave you feeling tight and not wanting to move”.

So how do I prepare for a game so that I don’t feel like a 90 yr old man the next day?

Five tips for five-a-side recovery

1) Keep moving! You may not feel like you want to move but this will keep blood flowing.

2) Take a relaxing bath or cold shower, giving you the opportunity to rest.

3) Massage. Who doesn’t love a little skin touch? This does not have to be painful as a gentle message will stimulate blood flow.

4) Compressed clothing – again, this will increase blood flow, adding recovery.

5) Make sure your training better matches your movement goal, and you will soon find your conditioning improves reducing the symptoms.

So there we go; it’s really not that complicated! And I fully intend to give it a try, if it means prolonging what has always been an eventful, if perhaps modest, career in football.

And you should too!

For more specific details on how to improve your conditioning, you can contact for one to one or online programming.