Autumn is Coming


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Yes, it’s true. I’m wearing a cardigan as I write this. I may even put the heating on later. I know it’s August but my feet are cold.

And that brings me smoothly onto my autumn preview. Because as the leaves drop and the schools go back, there’s a whole host of fun things happening.  First up is Spiegeltent in Canary Wharf. From 10th-20th September, Canada Square will host a festival of music, cabaret and comedy. There are loads of kids’ events, from a Big Fish Little Fish rave on 12th September to a Bach to Baby concert on the 18th. We’re hoping to pop down there – possibly to wave glowsticks in the air, possibly to listen to harp music. Anything could happen, folks.

If you’re otherwise engaged on the 12th, fear not. Big Fish Little Fish have a whole host of other autumn dates, now they’re back from the festival circuit. There are parties in Balham, Islington, Hackney, New Cross and even Exeter…have a look here for more info. Or if your tastes are more alternative, check out the Sunday morning IndieTots events – upcoming themed discos include post-punk and girl groups (I hear the Spice Girls may be involved but I’m hoping that’s just a vicious rumour).

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Of course, no preview would be complete without a indulgent bit of self-publicising. WAM are once again performing at the Stow Festival on 19th September and I will once again be singing in the choir with them. But don’t let this put you off! There are lots of cool things going on too – have a look here for more details.

If you fancy skipping over autumn and going straight to winter, there’s an interesting looking show on at the Unicorn Theatre which will give you goosebumps…in a good way. “Breaking the Ice” is the child-friendly tale of a husky and a polar bear who become friends. It’s based on a true story and sounds utterly charming. It’s on 2nd September – 4th October.

Later on in the autumn, there’s another child-friendly theatre show at the Leicester Square Theatre. It’s an adaptation of the Donaldson/Scheffler classic “Stick Man“, which never fails to make me cry. It’s on from 7th November and is suitable for children of 3 plus, as long as they’re emotionally stronger than I am. Talking of which, don’t forget that “Railway Children” is still on at Kings Cross till 6th January.

Is that enough to keep you going until Advent? Good. Make yourself a hot chocolate and enjoy. (And then make the kids a hot chocolate too. And then clear up spilt hot chocolate. Then enjoy)

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Crayford – 20/08/15

bex2   “Where is Crayford?”, you may ask. Well, it’d be a good question. I wouldn’t have known the answer a week ago. But the answer is it’s in the London Borough of Bexley, and a swift visit there ticked off another line in my boroughs challenge.

Technically we’d already done Bexley. On the drive down to holiday, I’d been overjoyed to see a sign on the A2 telling us that we were in one of my missing boroughs…but the kids were asleep and it was dark and no time to stop. So, Bexley whizzed by in a blur of roadside. There was a fairground at one point, but that was just over the border so may even have been in Greenwich. Safe to say, it was nothing to blog home about about. That’s why I decided to stop properly on the way home from holiday and see what a small part of Bexley had to offer.

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Not that it was very far into the borough of Bexley. Crayford is about as close to the edge of London as you can get from a Camber Sands kinda direction. With 2 minutes to go on the SatNav, the signs were still telling me we were in Dartford. But we spotted the sign above with seconds to spare, and parked up at the Tower Retail Park. I had big plans, but first…a stroll.

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Not far away from where we’d parked was the Crayford Waterside Gardens, a quite recently developed community space on the banks of the River Cray. It’s not huge but I thought there’d be enough space to have a run around and maybe a game of Pooh sticks.

Although it’s small, there are lots of interesting little features like seats inscribed with poetry:

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A vintage tea room:

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And an ampitheatre full of winos. Yeah, that wasn’t ideal. I thought we’d be able to have a bit of a play there, but it felt like we might be intruding somewhat. The kids skipped about on these paisley print stepping stones instead:

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And then had a bit of a sit down:

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By then, the  winos had been joined in the park by a gang of youths so it was probably time for us to move on. There was a reason we were eschewing the tasty-looking tea and cakes of Lindy Lou’s. We had somewhere to be.

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Oh yes. Trust me when I say we were all excited by this prospect:

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As it happened, we very nearly got a double Nandos – a technical blip with the till meant that, just as we got to the groaning-stomach stage of spicy eating, another two plates appeared. Sadly we had to send them away again. We all love a Nandos but even we have some limits. Unlike the frozen yoghurt, which was both unlimited and mango flavoured – the best of all the frozen yoghurts. A little orange light on the machine made me worry that we were in for a repeat of SuttonColdfieldNandosYoghurtGate but it was OK. It was working fine.

After gorging ourselves, we felt like it was best to have another walk before getting back in the car. What else could Crayford offer us for child-entertainment at 6PM? In the words of Eva’s friend Bunny – I know! Bunnies!

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Nathan didn’t believe me when I said that there were real live rabbits at Pets at Home, but he was wrong. Eva didn’t believe me when I said the rabbits wouldn’t be dancing, but she was wrong too. (“Are they dancing bunnies?” “No, just hopping ones” “Maybe they could hop as they dance!” I know who I’m blaming for this particular fantasy. The same girl I’m blaming for my flooded bathroom)

Dancing or otherwise, bunnies certainly were there to be looked at. Also gerbils, hamsters and assorted other rodents. And a whole aquarium upstairs!:

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Ah, there’s nothing like a Pets at Home for some free entertainment. Who needs the zoo?

So, that pretty much exhausted the possibilities of early evening Crayford with a toddler but we had fun. On the way home, we went past Bexley Town Hall, which is a touch less brutalist than the Waltham Forest one, but good to know we’ve seen the sights.

Four boroughs and a week of “summer” to go…

 

Posted in Cake and the finest wines known to humanity (eating out), Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Project MC2 – 08/08/15

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Here’s a picture quiz for you all. In the equation above, A2+B2= what? And what the Pythagoras does it all mean anyway? Answer below and the first one to get it right will get a prize of some kind. Maybe a DIY Volcano kit, because that’s what the kids were doing in the garden with Nathan yesterday. Apparently you should use ketchup instead of vinegar, for optimum ooze.

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Why this sudden interest in maths and science? Well, that’s what we’re cycling round to. Last Saturday, we went to the Science Museum for the launch of Project MC2 –   a new Netflix series about 4 girls who like science. They’re cool, popular and sassy -oh, so very sassy – but also have mad skills when it comes to engineering, hacking and culinary chemistry. Plus international espionage, obviously. The programme is being accompanied with a range of dolls, each of which comes with its own science experiment…so, let’s meet the girls.

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There’s the eponymous Mc2 – McKeyla McAlister. Hipster, spy and new girl in school she exudes a kind of dorky self-confidence that sees the other girls describe her as “I.A.W.A.T.S.T”. For the uniniatied, that’s “Interesting and Weird at the Same Time”. Typical awkward new kid with a secret lab, really.

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Then there’s Bryden Bandweth – social media guru and pro hacker, with a good line in geek chic. Nathan was particularly impressed with her Nintendo belt buckle:

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Next up is C2 – Camryn Coyle, who was my favourite because she had exactly the kind of red hair that I always strive for. Plus she’s an engineer, with a rocket-powered skateboard:

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Eva got a Camryn doll to take home and loves it, although it took her mere minutes to put this engineer into a giant ballgown. I hardly think that’s practical skatewear.

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Lastly, here’s Adrienne Attoms – the A2 in the equation. She’s the culinary chemist, creating concotions in the lab that are both delicious and explosive. In the episode we watched, she made a nifty powder for dusting for fingerprints – all from the ingredients you’d find in a baking drawer. I have no idea whether it would work, but I’d assume so. Adri is also a dead ringer for Bernadette from “The Big Bang Theory” – another great female scientist on TV.

Now, I have to admit that I don’t have a child who’s target market for this show. It’s really aimed at the 7-12 market and I would imagine it’d be more appealing to girls than boys. That’s not to say that Roo didn’t enjoy it, but he’s a bit young for sassy American acronyms and a bit too Reuben to appreciate their cool outfits and shiny hair. But I liked it. It didn’t take itself too seriously and it was ultra-fluffy-light while also making a serious point about the need for more women in STEM areas. It’s a good message for both my son and daughter to hear, as we don’t want them to think that their gender limits them in any way (although they’ve both already started saying that certain things are “for boys” or “for girls”…).  And it also shows that science can be fun, which I think they both sorta knew anyway.

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The launch itself was hosted by Fran Scott of CBBC, herself a female scientist. She showed us an experiment using the power of friction and how layering the pages of a book together produced a glue-like strength. Later on, Roo would try pulling these two books apart in a tug of war and proved that yes, friction really does beat humans every time. Fran was great – full of science knowledge but also chatty and lovely with the kids. I hope she eventually got to enjoy her lunch.

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Around the room, there were various science experiments set up including a liquid egg timer, lava lamp making and demonstrating the power of an airzuka:

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See that cup? That didn’t stay there for long.

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There was also a table of spy exercises, like code breaking and making a fingerprint on a balloon so you could blow it up really big:

Roo really liked all the experiments, making his own lava lamp and a DIY harmonica:

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Eva, meanwhile, like playing with the dollies:

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Oh yeah, slight flaw with this whole gender equality thing. My kids are the most gender stereotyped children ever. Ah well, keep combing the dolly’s hair Eva and remember…she’s not just pretty, she’s also super-smart.

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Which leads me to my slight quibble with the whole thing – why do the girls all have to be so conventionally beautiful? I kinda get it – the show needs to appeal to fashion-conscious tweens and they’re not going to be interested in science if they think it means they have to dress like Amy Farrah Fowler. But all four girls are so slim and have such glossy hair that it’s setting up unrealistic role models, which the media is already awash with. They could have been beautiful in a slightly less obvious way and still been cool. I mean, who wouldn’t be with these kind of fashion statements?:

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I think on balance though, it’s OK. It’s setting out to do a similar thing to Buffy – proving that pretty girls aren’t also vacuous and that you can have an important mission and still have good hair. I think it’s also interesting that the damsel in distress in this story is a man. And British, obviously. ..everyone loves a posh British boy.

So, the kids both approved and I think we approved. It’s certainly piqued their interest in science. We’ve already recreated the volcano experiment that comes with Adrienne Attoms, and the lava lamp that (I think) comes with McKeyla. And look, you can buy a whole science playset:

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Project MC2 is available to watch on Netflix now. The dolls are available to buy from many places, I expect, but I found some at Argos

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Morden Hall Park – 07/08/15

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If all kids rebel against their parents – which I expect they do – then mine will almost certainly develop a loathing for long, pointless journeys across London. We’ve had a couple of long trips to West London recently and on Friday, decided to mix it up a little with a long trip to South London. Not to score another borough - although I was hoping that might be a happy side effect – but rather to the end of the Northern Line for not better reason than because H’sMama fancied it, and it had been far too long since we’d hung out with her and H.

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We met them on a very windy and noisy platform at Kennington to start the epic journey down south. Of course, we no longer live in Kennington so had had a fairly epic journey to get that far. For purely sentimental reasons, I’d included the Victoria Line in our journey. It wasn’t necessary, but it was the last time we could use it for a while. And we wouldn’t be able to go down this escalator for a very long time indeed:

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You have no idea how tricky it was getting that shot. So don’t complain that it’s blurry.

Anyway, H and her Mama picked up, we hopped on the tube and a mere 30 minutes later emerged at Morden. It was quite a moment – the tube even resurfaces into daylight for that final stop. Which is bizarre, as I always picture Morden as a dark kind of place, which takes undersized actors a tedious 9 hours to reach. The way it means “murder” in German doesn’t help these connotations much.

But I was wrong – Morden was gloriously sunny. The view out of the station was a touch uninspiring – grey concrete buildings, a huge road, a Wimpey – but we were headed to Morden Hall Park, which was supposed to be green and lovely. It’s a mere 5 minutes’ walk from the station across another huge road, but look at how wild it is as soon as you step through the gates:

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Yup, that’s forest right there. It didn’t do much to allay my fears, as I still have a phobia of the countryside, even after a year in NearlyEssex. Neither did this signpost:

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Err, Snuff Mill? Like a Snuff Movie? Yeah, this is getting no less scary.

We were pretty hungry after our long journey, so found a small patch of grass to sit and eat our picnic on. H’sMama had totally BoyScouted things with ten thousand sandwiches and some yummy rhubarb cake, but I had been unable to repress my Jewish Mother side and had gone to Sainsbury’s on the way for yet more food. So, we sat and ate and ate and ate while the kids played pooh sticks on a nearby bridge:

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Lots of people passed by, giving us odd looks as they did so. Was this not the picnic area? Well, it did the job. It was only when we packed up and moved on that we found the glorious expanse of lawn that you were clearly meant to picnic at. Ah well.

It was at this point in the park that the tributary we’d been pooh-sticking on turned into the River Wandle, which was wide enough and shallow enough to go paddling in. Of course, we hadn’t expected paddling and so none of the kids had their swimming stuff with them. Naturally, then, they all stayed dry on the bank watching other kids cool off and have fun in the water.

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You believed that? Like, actually? You’re new to this blog, aren’t you?

They watched from the bridge for a matter of moments before stripping off, getting suncreamed up and climbing in. Roo in a t-shirt and pants, Eva in her shorts, H as nature intended. Me, rolling my jeans up to my knees and hoping no-one noticed how stubbly my legs were. Weirdly, I didn’t take many pictures of our paddling attire. But this gives you an idea:

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The river was beautifully clear and refreshing but there were a few logistical problems with trying to keep an eye on two kids at once. In future, I’d say this was a 2-parent, 2-child job. You’d seize one by the hand and watch as the other scampered off downstream in search of…pixies probably. It was a bit rocky underfoot so hard to move too quickly – but somehow we overcame these things and managed to have a pleasant paddle without anyone drowning or even falling over. Roo’s pants got a little wet in the water, and I didn’t have spares for him…but a trip to the hand drier in the loos sorted him out.

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If you need to know, the loos are in the Stable Yard, which is back across the bridge and opposite the Rose Garden. It’s a little too far to walk barefoot, as I discovered…and then felt foolish as I realised I had a spare pair of shoes in my handbag all along. There’s also a little cafe in the Stable Yard but it was shut when we were there.

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Refreshed by our dip and ready to play, we moved on to the Natural Play Area. It looked tucked away at the end of a path, so I wasn’t expecting it to be huge but it was much bigger than it looked. There were some wooden lookout platforms, which Eva called the S.H.I.E.L.D. Helicarrier, and a climbing frame, zipwire, stepping stones and a swing. I’ll stop trying to describe it now. Have a look instead:

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Yay, zipwire.

And here the stepping stones with boy inconveniently sitting on them:

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A tree made climbable by putting climbing wall things on it (like me, you might find this concept slightly odd….aren’t trees kinda naturally climbable anyway?):

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The standing up swing:

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And the sharing swing:

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It was a cool playground, but the lack of sightlines meant that, again, it would have been ideal to have a 1:1 ratio. I could never quite see where both kids were at once and, seeing as it’s surrounded by river on all sides, you kinda want to know what they’re up to. Still, lots of fun and we played until Eva broke down, hot and bothered by an altercation with some other small girls over the Helicarrier. Time to move on and replan.

See, the original plan was to walk through Morden Hall Park, along the River Wandle, through Riverscourt Park until we hit the borough border from Merton into Sutton. That was be a big tick on my boroughs list. But it wasn’t to be. It was already too hot, too late and the kids were too tired for us to consider anything but ice cream and hometime. First though, a slightly more chilled out play area with a “storyboat” in it:

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I’m not sure what a storyboat is, but you can climb on it and the enclosed space meant I could sit and relax for a few minutes.

Then another toilet trip led to the children finding these cool rocking chairs:

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What we didn’t find in Stable Yard, however, was any ice cream. The cafe there was still closed and yet, there was hope. We kept seeing small children with Calippos. Where did they come from? While everyone else hung out in the rocking chair room, I dashed out and found someone in a National Trust t-shirt, imploring him to give me ice cream. I was brandishing Eva’s scooter at the time, with her river-wet pants on the handlebars so must have looked quite the maniac. Still, he calmly gave me directions through the archway to the Potting Shed Cafe, then backed away slowly.

So, we went through the archway:

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And found….another play area. Yay! This was filled with interactive boards, all about the gardening calendar. It was next to a large garden centre and the car park, which make me think we would have seen all of this if we’d come in through the main gate. Still, we’d found it in the end and cooling ice cream was but moments away.

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Long moments though. Inside the cafe was chaotic – the park is hosting a performance of “Wind in the Willows” through the summer and the last show had just kicked out. Which meant kids everywhere, all wanting refreshment at the same time. Only one person seemed to be serving and the ice cream cabinet was in a small corner, kinda forcing the queue into an awkward snake. I left H’sMama to pay and took all three children outside. Luckily, a table had just come up, along with a highchair for Eva (who still insists on one from time to time..because she likes to play babies) so we could all sit down and enjoy a cool fruity something after what had been a most exhausting afternoon.

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And let’s leave it there. Tempers may have got frayed all round later on, so let’s just leave it. I will say that Morden Hall Park was a surprisingly lovely one, and it’s well worth the trip to the end of the line. More information here

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Posted in Token attempts at fresh air (parks) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Feltham – 06/08/15

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It’s been an intense couple of trips of out-and-aboutness, so forgive me if this post is mainly made up of random letters, as my head hits the keyboard, in a kind of  isndf\NRHB\FHBR\HZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ way.

Yesterday was a particularly epic effort. Zone 4 in North East London to Zone 6 in the South West was always going to be a tough call, especially with a nursery pick up to get back for. So, what could make this even more complicated? A tube strike, you say? Why, thank you. I’ll take that challenge.

Cause I love a challenge, as you know. This was part of my bigger London Borough challenge, but also a good opportunity to catch up with a friend. And that’s how I justified taking my boy on a rush-hour, strike-day London Overground train. Check out all the personal space he didn’t have:

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That’s my foot but not my leg. Mmm, cosy.

It was in this kinda snuggliness that we made our way to Liverpool Street. In a moment of spontaneous madness, I started wondering about hopping off at Hackney Downs and getting the Overground from Hackney Central round to Richmond. But, as I was frantically googling this as we were pulling into Hackney Downs, it seemed like an ill-conceived plan. We’d stay where we were.

My biggest concern was getting from Liverpool St to Waterloo. It was a 2 mile walk – a bit far for 6-year-old legs, or even 34-year-old legs. My plan was to walk to London Bridge and get the Thames Clipper to the the London Eye but first, we’d check out exactly how bad these bus queues were.

I was expecting the worst. When you see pictures of the tube strike in the Metro, it invariably shows hordes of city folk trying to cram onto a bus at Liverpool St. And sure enough, outside KFC on Bishopsgate, there was a huge crowd and the 26 parked up, letting a trickle of people on. We joined the back of the mob, not feeling optimistic…but then I noticed that the people getting on weren’t the same people as the ones queuing. People just wandered up and got on. I asked a few people in front of me if they wanted the 26 and they all said no, so Roo and I wandered on too. I still have no idea what any of them were actually waiting for. The 78? Is Peckham a hot commuters’ destination nowadays?

Anyway, we were on the bus we needed, and Roo had a seat of sorts…in the luggage rack. Still, I told him not to complain and after about 20minutes, we both had actual seats to call our own. It was a slow bus, but I’d allowed an hour for the transfer so it was fine. We got to Waterloo with time to spare before our train. Feeling smug, I bought a coffee and a smoothie for Roo. One of the energising ones with the black label. Remember that –  it might come in useful later.

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While we waited for a platform, we watched a giant screen that was showing, among other things, the Fantastic Four trailer. Roo squeals every time he sees a bus with the poster on, so this was a treat for him:

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Easily pleased, my boy. We settled down on the train for the 30-minute journey to Feltham and again felt smug at how we’d defied the strike to cross pretty much the entirety of London. Well, I was feeling smug. Reuben was thinking about superheroes.

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We made such good time that we hit Feltham at 10:30, before our friends were ready to meet us. So we took a wander around the shopping centre, browsing the toys in The Works and avoiding the credit management people who seemed friendly but overly interested in my financial history.

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Then we crossed the road to have a look at the duck pond. But on the way, we found this unexpected treat:

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November 1991! I remember it so well…the first time I ever cried about a celebrity dying. And possibly the last. Oh Freddie. Too much love will kill you, just as sure as none at all.

Roo, as ever, was uninterested in rock history. Oh look, a duck.

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And another duck! This one tried to steal Roo’s Haribo cake. Though its baby did not, as the boy alleges, try to drink from his flask.

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It’s a bit of a random piece of green, right next to the shopping centre and a busy road, but it’s a nice place to hang out, with some cool mosaic benches:

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And it gave us time to eat our cakes. Roo was feeling fine at this point. Remember that.

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We met our friends and started making plans for the day. The original idea was to visit the Bedfont Lakes Country Park, right on the western edge of the Borough of Hounslow, but the sky was looking threateningly grey. As it began to make good on those threats, we rapidly recalculated. There was a soft play a few minutes away and that would give Roo a chance for a run about. Baby H was due a sleep and we could have a gossip. It all worked pretty smoothly.

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The soft play is called Little Pins, and it’s in the same building as the bowling alley at Leisure West. It’s not hugely signposted, so it might not be obvious that it’s there. But now you know, should you ever have a child to entertain on a rainy day in Feltham. It was £4 for an hour and, for the most part, I could just keep a vague eye on Roo while having a catch up. Lovely.

By now, we were getting hungry and there was a Pizza Hut just over the car park. So, it seemed like an obvious choice – who doesn’t love the bargainous buffet and refillable drink, especially when they have one of those fancy new Pepsi machines that does loads of different flavours (You want 7UP Light Cherry? You got it!). Roo had a huge milkshake that he downed in seconds:

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We ate some pizza and then, out of nowhere, Roo said he needed to be sick.

Huh. That’s not good.

He wasn’t sick – he just said he felt funny, went to the loo a few times, did some colouring and then perked up enough to eat dessert.

Then he said he felt sick again. And again he wasn’t.

This was all very odd, until I remembered the smoothie he’d had on the train. I fished it out of his rucksack, took a look at the ingredients and found a few things in there – guarana, flax seeds – that might possibly be playing havoc with his insides. I feel kinda responsible – I’d briefly wondered if it was suitable for him, but there wasn’t much else to choose from, given he doesn’t like orange juice. So we’d grabbed that with the coffee and hoped for the best. Don’t do what I did. Avoid the black label smoothies for kids. They’re not as innocent as they seem.

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With all these gastric shenanigans going on, you’d think I would have whipped him straight back home for some rest and TLC. But home was a long way away, and the stale air and rocking motion of a train didn’t seem awesome for a nauseous boy. So, we went to the park. Feltham Park, to be exact. And once there, he was fine again. I think the episode had passed. Besides, the sun was out.

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Feltham Park is a pretty big green area with a new and extensive playground. There is stuff for bigger kids, and a toddler area segregated by bushes:

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There were some touches I really liked, like this weather station, in colourful 60s colours:

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I also loved that it had a weather for what today was like:

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Partly sunny. How very British and understated and also, how very true.

There were other interactive boards, where you could sort things by number or learn about sea creatures, and obviosuly there were climbing frames, swings for all sizes and slides. Plus a zipwire that Roo fell off and bruised his bottom.

Oh, and here’s a trophy to add to my Bins of the Boroughs collection:

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We had a fun play, but it was time to get back if we wanted to avoid the rush hour. The train back to Waterloo was swift and there were none of the…internal problems I had anticipated. The only havoc played was the one in the Marvel top trumps set (rubbish card, by the way…but I cared not as I had Wolverine).

The reverse journey to Liverpool Street on the 26 was every bit as slow and the journey there. By the time we’d be staring at St Paul’s for halfa superhero alphabet, I decided we should get off and walk. It was a good plan, and we we found a pretty double helix en route:

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We also found the Sugar Building, which excited us for – I suspect – different reasons. I have a weak spot for “The Apprentice”, Reuben  likes structures made out of stuff you can eat. Everyone’s a winner.

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I get lost and disorientated in the Square Mile, so I had looked at Google Maps before we started walking and plotted a course to Liverpool St. Straight up, past St Paul’s tube, turn right onto London Wall at the Museum of London, all simple from there. It would work fine as long as I didn’t get distracted. Ooh, flowers:

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Yes, we meandered off down an interesting looking alleyway – I thought it would lead to Postman’s Park but it clearly didn’t. But we did see some very old bits of wall, and managed to get back onto the newer Wall with relative ease….and then Liverpool St was a mere toddle away.

Basically, don’t let the Striking Man bring you down. Anything is possible, and even days out in the far reaches of Hounslow can be done with a little teeth-gritting. It was a fun day, and I have no regrets bar the smoothie. Let’s see how I fare against the might of the Victoria Line closure next…

 

Posted in Creating precious childhood memories or something (days out) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

The LWAT Summer Project 2015

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Yes, it’s the summer holidays and, a couple of weeks in, I’m finally ready to announce the LWAT Summer Project. We are going to visit all 32 London boroughs. Obviously not all this month. That would be madness, especially given that we are cut off from the rest of the world by the Victoria Line closure. But happily, we’ve already conquered the majority of the list. Just look where we’ve been so far:

Which means we have these still to go:

  • Bexley
  • Havering
  • Hillingdon
  • Hounslow
  • Kingston upon Thames
  • Sutton

Progress is being made – we’ve been to Ealing already, and are hoping for Hounslow tomorrow, tube strike permitting, but it could be a challenge. Do you live in Bexley or Hillingdon and want to invite us over for tea? We’ll see you there…

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Posted in Facts! And facts are important! | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

A Public Service Announcement

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I know -I’m bursting out of my BlogMould and actually telling you useful and relevant information. Bear with me.

Everyone and their wife knows that the top end of the Victoria Line is closed for 3 weeks this August, starting on 8th August (this Saturday!) and carrying on till 30th August (Seven Sisters to Walthamstow Central is closed, but fewer services on the rest of the line). Even Reuben knows that and he’s making alternate travel plans. But what he doesn’t realise, along with many other commuters, is the knock-on effect it’ll have on other services, particularly London Overground. Click here for the TfL page, but I’m going to summarise some highlights that may have passed you by.

* Live in St James St and commute into Liverpool St? Well, start replanning now. St James St will be exit-only until 9:30 and, obviously, Blackhorse Rd will have no Victoria Line. Walthamstow Central overground will be crazily busy, so your best bet is probably to get the bus to Leyton and hop on the Central Line. Which may also be busier than usual…be warned.

* Live in Chingford, Wood Street or Highams Park and run for that early morning train? Well, run faster. The trains will be departing 2 minutes earlier, so that post school run 9:01 will be an 8:59. Thank goodness there’s no school run to contend with…

* Live in Clapton? Get walking. Services won’t stop there before 9:30am. Luckily, you are right at the end of the 38 bus route- one of London’s most frequent routes – so you should at least be able to get onto one of those.

* Live in a bunch of other places I’ve never been to? Edmonton Green, Enfield Town, White Hart Lane, Silver Street, Bush Hill Park – you’re looking at a one minute early departure. Edmonton Green will also not be served by Abellio Greater Anglia services. I’m hoping that if this is your station, it makes more sense to you than it does to me…

There is some good news – there are two rail replacements buses being laid on, and an extra temporary service – the 558, which goes from Chingford Mount to Seven Sisters via Blackhorse Rd. Rail replacement bus A follows the Victoria Line route – Walthamstow Central, Blackhorse Rd, Tottenham Hale, Seven Sisters – and Rail Replacement bus B goes from Walthamstow Central to Stratford, skimming near St James St station on the way.

But – and this is a big but and I do not lie – there’s loads of other stuff on that info page which is just kinda slipped in there with all the closure information. Like the fact that the car park at Walthamstow Central will be closed throughout the works, so that’s one less way to get to the Overground.  Similarly, the car park at Blackhorse Rd will be half closed, to accommodate the rail replacement buses. Oh, and there’s the fact that the escalators at Walthamstow Central will be undergoing maintenance from now until April 2016!! They will be permanently set on “upwards only” from September to April, except during the morning peak (07:00-09:30), effectively turning the station from a buggy-friendly one into a nightmare. Either travel during rush hour or carry your buggy down a huge flight of stairs. And wheelchair users? Don’t go there. I mean it literally. And for anyone who shuddered at that last part, take note of this tiny nugget re Rail Replacement Bus A: “A small proportion of buses may not offer step free access.” Make of that what you will.

None of this has been widely advertised, but it has been discreetly popped in to a page full of other information. Talk about a good day to bury bad news! The bottom line is to work from home or do what everyone expects you to do in August and bugger off on holiday. For 3 weeks. We’re doing a bit of that during the closure and I have my (heaven-sent) local job, meaning that none of this is actually my problem – if all else fails, I’ll be dusting off my trainers. But I fear for Nathan and all my friends who actually need to work over August. I only hope that this post has arrived in time for you all to figure out how to handle three weeks of crazy.

Bon Voyage!

Posted in Facts! And facts are important! | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Brutalist Playground – 31/07/15

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Ever wondered what the toilets look like in the Royal Institute of British Architects look like? Beautifully landscaped, you’d bet? Well you’d be right and now you can wonder no longer because that’s the exact spot we’re starting this blog post in. And look at this amazing sink:

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And this stripy wall that the small girls enjoyed posing in front of:

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And a massive mirror:

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Really, this was job done for the day. We didn’t need to go the exhibition we were there for, we could just hang out in the loos for a few hours. We’d hastened in there when Eva made a panicked announcement at a cash point in New Cavendish Street, but now that she had sorted herself out we could possibly go elsewhere.

It took a little persuasion but yes, we did get back up the stairs of RIBA and into the Brutalist Playground exhibition. For those who don’t know, this is art. It looks like a soft play but it’s art, honest. Luckily it’s art that you can climb over.

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It represents the innovative and not-exactly-safe concrete playgrounds of the 1970s brutalist estates but here they are recreated in slightly more child-friendly foam. It raises all sorts of questions about the “Nanny State” we live in now as opposed to the carefree era that served as a backdrop to those classic PSAs – “Apache” and “Spirit of Dark Water” spring to mind. Of course, even in this safe and soft environment, there was a bit of nannying.  The biggest piece in the exhibition was for over 5s only, which suited Roo just fine but wasn’t a popular move with the hordes of toddlers  and pre-schoolers who were romping about. Here’s the zone of schoolboys only:

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We had assembled quite the review panel for this trip out – Eva’s friend J (nearly 3),her little brother R (7 months) and 17-month-old P. So , happily, I can feed back on what all ages made of it. And yes, all ages except Roo felt the pain of not being allowed on the big circle thing.

But there was plenty of other stuff to do. I’m a fan of play spaces that leave some space for imagination, and the minimalist blocks were ideal for climbing over, building on and remodelling, using these hexagonal blocks:

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Roo, as ever, was the ringleader. Here he is, carrying blocks to build his hexagon sofa in the sky:

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It proved very popular with a group of 3-year-old boys who were there. Eva couldn’t quite get up to the top level without a bunk up but I’m sure she could have scrambled up the slope if she’d really tried.

On  the other side, there was a flight of steps leading to both a slide and a secret “clubhouse” at the top of a tower. Roo got some of the blocks up there and managed to build a look-out platform:

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I was slightly worried that he might be able to build high enough to tip himself over the edge but hey, he’d land on foam, right?

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As you might guess, the whole thing isn’t made of nothing but foam – the foam is laid over plywood to make the structures. It’s been on for a while, and is showing some patches of wear (which is how I could see the wood below). The bare foam isn’t the most durable of materials, but when has art ever been about practicality?

On the upside, it made a tasty snack for baby R (that happened on my watch…I think I’ve forgotten how to handle babies). If you have a weaner-age, be aware that the foam comes out in clumps and looks fun to eat.

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It was interesting to see how the different ages interacted with the exhibit. R just sat and looked at all the pretty pastel colours around him. P crawled around and managed to scale the slopes. She even breached the 5-year-old zone at one point (that was kinda on my watch too…I think I’ve forgotten how to handle toddlers). She was just about big enough for the slide and could do the steps on her own…it was a great space for her.

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Eva and J enjoyed it too, running about with total abandon and occasionally trapping boys in small places. There was nothing that would get them too stuck so they didn’t have to be watched too closely…it’s also a fairly small space with one exit, so difficult to lose them entirely.

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Roo, meanwhile, liked the building aspect of it, hauling blocks up slopes to create his own empire…and he liked the bit that Eva wasn’t allowed on. Obviously.

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So, it worked well across the ages. So well that Eva didn’t want to leave and had to be dragged out literally kicking and screaming. She calmed down by the time we got outside and actually got to see the outside of the building:

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She asked some questions about the pavements and then we were all good. We had a lunch date in Euston, so we wandered that way, passing the all-new Regents Plaza on the way. It has a grass-covered Innocent van, deckchairs and a bumpy grass bit that the kids may not may not have been allowed to walk on. So we didn’t, just to be safe, and carried on to our lunch venue.

Now, I entirely lamely failed to take a picture of this café, so let’s appropriate one from the BBC.

 

Nabbed from sherlockology.com

Nabbed from sherlockology.com

Yes, it’s the Sherlock café! Am I totally lame to be excited by that?

We were meeting my cousin and her family there and I was expecting it to be busy and crowded. But we met at 11:30 and it was fine – we got two tables close together and had a kids’ table and adults’ table next to each other (Eva sat with the adults…because she is one, according to her). By the time we left at 12:30 it was heaving so if you fancy it, go early. That probably goes for any eatery in the Euston area – they all get a bit manic and most are unfriendly and overpriced. Speedy’s was neither of the above – the service was attentive and swift, the bill reasonable and they were happy to go off-menu to bring Eva a sausage sandwich. I had the chicken and chorizo risotto and it was yummy. Reuben had a huge plate of roast beef, gravy and chips…a bizarre mix, but it wasn’t his own creation –it was actually on the menu. He didn’t finish it, but it was both big and piled. Roo loved lunching with his cousins, Eva liked looking at herself in the mirror and occasionally kissing it.

The only downside of Speedy’s is the lack of toilets but luckily I have a good Euston toilet-hack  – the Wellcome Collection. So we dived in there before the cousins had to get their train and we had to go to Liverpool St for a bit of chasing wild geese.

Weirdly enough, this was a day with very few meltdowns (the end of exhibit one excluded) and I’d mark it down as a success. All the kids seemed to love the Brutalist Playground and I would definitely recommend going before it closes on 16th August. As ever, find out more information here.

I believe they’re holding a Day of Play there on 8th August, so that would be an excellent time to pop along. And it’s free! Woohoo!

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Posted in Token attempts at culture (museums) | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Brent Lodge Park – 27/07/15

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This Summer, I am doing something brave. I am conquering my fear of West London. But I can’t do it alone. Thankfully, when I announced this on FaceBook, a kind family of West Londoners reached out to invite us over to play. It was still a daunting prospect, especially getting there and back in the 6.5 hours that Eva spends at the childminders…but the promise of playmates and a strong cup of coffee at the end of the journey got us there in just an hour from Walthamstow.

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I think it’s clear from this photo that Roo shares my mistrust of that end of the Piccadilly Line. Still, there were wonders to be seen as soon as we left the tube. Look at this garage that specifically caters for cars from the last century:

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And this takeaway that caters for punters from centuries way before the last one. Maybe the Ancient Greeks. Did they love the tandoor?

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West London is a marvellous place indeed. I think I’d always had the idea that it was kinda grim and industrial and generally just one big overspill of Heathrow. Certainly, this view from the tube didn’t reassure me too much:

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But that was before we got to the magical land of Hanwell – and I assure you I’m not the first one to liken it to Narnia. It’s a pretty place, full of lovely period houses, green spaces and the occasional massive Lidl. Our native guides told us that there were some nice cafes about, including one at the back of a bike shop (sadly closed on Mondays) and I liked the look of the Clocktower Cafe, though the clocktower itself was a bit brutalist for my taste, although I think it’s actually Art Deco.

(Apparently it’s too brutalist for other people’s tastes as well. Read about one man’s campaign of hate here)

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Our actual destination was Brent Lodge Park, which sounded like it would be almost too much fun to fit into the time we had. And sorry to yes that yes, it was too much fun for the time we had. But we managed to fit a fair amount in. Bear with me here.

First stop was Katy, Kit and Alice’s house where we had a coffee and a chat about superheroes before heading out to the park. Hanwell certainly has a village-y feel to it…just look at this church!

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Oh, and take note of how the sun suddenly burst through the clouds as we parked up. I think West London arranged this specially for us.

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Brent Lodge Park is part of Brent River Park, which I know because I read it from the picture above. It’s also known as Bunny Park, which I know because a 4-year-old girl told me. I assumed it was just the kind of thing small girls like to come up with (see “Tunnel Park”) but when I got home and looked on Google Maps, it appeared that this was the actual name of it. Sorry to doubt you Alice.

We did see a bunny when we were there, along with many other animals in the mini-zoo:

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A few of the animals were being a bit camera shy  - we didn’t spot the marmosets or a peacock, which is probably just as well given that Roo wanted to scare one so that it would show off its tail feathers. We did see a peahen, pheasants, pigs, a tower of goats:

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And these meerkats, who were – and I quote – “doing that meerkat thing”. Yes, that was me that said that. If blogging doesn’t work out I’m considering being the next David Attenborough. But, for your delight, here they are sitting up and doing the meerkat thing:

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<Space for readers to make their own, car insurance-based jokes before we can possibly move on></car insurance-based jokes>

We also saw some cranes, with a patch of red atop their heads that Reuben eloquently describes as “like a piece of chorizo”. He’s going to be my nature-reporting sidekick. There was also a pretty, and only recently restored, lake:

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And a crocodile! In the playground, rather than in the lake:

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We’d moved onto the playground by this point because Roo had heard the word and was asking for it repeatedly. The zoo probably deserved more of our time, but the boy wanted to do a little monkeying around of his own:

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There’s a couple of climbing frames, all new and shiny, with a loose animal theme (a tunnel was a rabbit burrow, for example). Some bits on the bigger frame were a bit hard for Roo to do alone but quite frankly, I think he was just being a bit wussy.

After a quick play, it was time for a picnic lunch and, just in case this day wasn’t ambitious enough, Katy had a plan. It involved a prime kite-flying spot and more kites than we had children. Fittingly enough, there were many ups and downs with this plan. Her face in this photo may illustrate a “down” moment, where it all seemed to be more about untangling bits of string and less of running around singing Mary Poppins songs:

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But then there were glorious moments when it all came together and the wind was right, and the children were running in the right direction and the strings were untangled and it all worked!

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Of course, the struggles only made those moments all the sweeter. There’s a message in here somewhere. Possibly that message is “Don’t imagine that kite-flying is the kind of thing that small children can do alone while you relax on a picnic blanket.”

Time was getting on and we needed to traverse London again to fetch Eva. All three kids had spotted these giant bouncy things on the way in, but neither Katy nor I were super-keen to spend time and money on them when there was so much else to do:

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So we spent money on something more worthwhile instead – an ice cream! The cafe had an amazing looking selection, all piled up gelateria-style and…did I just drool on the keyboard a little there? Whoops. I was pretty full from our picnic but Roo never says no to one, so chose blue flavour:

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I’m not sure what I would have gone for, but the Haribo one looked pretty intriguing. Incidentally, the park cafe takes card which is both rare and useful to know.

Sadly, we did have to rush a bit and so didn’t get time to check out this awesome maze:

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Maybe we’ll come back another day. After all, we had a lovely day with our very gracious hosts. Kit says that Reuben is his best friend now (I suspect that he was impressed by Roo’s superhero knowledge). And the journey isn’t too arduous,  especially if Roo reads silently for the entire journey like he did on the way there:

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One borough of West London – done! Bring on the Hillingdons and Hounslows…

More information here (official website)

 

Posted in Food in cages! Walking around! Or maybe some alpacas! (Farms and zoos), Token attempts at fresh air (parks) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kidzania – 25/07/15

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Well, where to start with Kidzania? Let’s start in West London, a place much maligned and neglected by LWAT but the focus of a “Getting to know you” campaign this summer.  The particular bit of West London we visited today was Shepherd’s Bush, and the all-new Kidzania theme park at Westfield, in association with the Mumsnet Bloggers Network. You may join us, if you will, outside the tube, where Eva’s scooter has just broken:

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Bah, GrumpyNathan! This has happened to us out and about before but you’ll be pleased to know that this time we found all the parts and managed to repair it once we got home. But it did mean we were dragging a broken scooter around all day and Eva had to use her “yegs” for once. Not ideal when we had our usual huge amounts of stuff with us anyway.

A distraction was on the horizon though, as Westfield had – like its Stratford cousin - turned a bit tropical:

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We didn’t pause to try out the deckchairs, as I was feeling the need for coffee before we tackled the big KZ and first off we had to stop by the satellite ticket office and check we were OK to go in without print outs of the tickets. The office is here, outside M&S on the First Floor:

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And luckily, an e-ticket on Nathan’s phone worked just fine as a ticket. I’m not sure what I would have done without Nathan, given how unsmart my current phone is…but I didn’t need to worry about it. We got coffees from the Starbucks downstairs, where Eva insisted on sitting not with us but opposite two random girls who, happily, didn’t seem to mind the intrusion. They even gave her some popchips, which was a bit of a win for Eva.

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Then we came upstairs, found the actual front door and ascended to the third floor “check-in desks”.

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Yes, they’re exactly as you imagine. KidZania has a bit of an airport theme (as one of the most popular activities is in partnership with BA). So, at the top of the escalators there are queue barriers, leading to a bank of desks where you check in. Along the way, there are lots of things to look at, like these posters of KidZanias around the world:

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I think KidZania London is something like the 19th location around the world and it started as a Mexican company. But KidZania is officially its own country, as a plaque on the floor explains. Hence the International Airport (you also go through Customs when you leave).

Check-in involved us all getting electronic bracelets – child ones to tag into activities and parental ones to keep track of those children. Here’s Roo, showing his off:

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He was also issued with 50 KidZos – the official currency of KidZania (although don’t worry, the restaurants and the merchandise shop inside all give you the chance to spend actual pounds as well). For those who are completely unfamiliar with the KidZania concept, I’m going to explain it slowly now. If you already know it all, feel free to skip on. You can join us again after the picture of the kids with the KidZania sign that differs ever so slightly from the picture at the top of the post (it contains approx 50% more terror).

So, the KZ Concept. It’s a miniature city, for miniature people. Aimed at the 4-14 age group, it’s a chance for kids to take part in real-life scenarios – working as anything from couriers to pilots. For some experiences, they’ll earn a salary that they can pay into their KidZania bank account or use to buy things at the Department Store. For other experiences, they’ll need to pay to do it. All in KidZos, naturally. Each activity lasts around 15 minutes (some- like the acting class – are much longer) and are fully immersive, with costumes and realistic props. The under 4s are catered for too, with their own preschool area, but they don’t get the KidZos on arrival and can’t take part in the role playing activities that make up most of the city. Are you ready to see what Roo and Eva made of it all? Read on…

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Are you back with us, skimmers? Good-oh! Well, the official advice on check-in is to take a walk around the city before deciding what to do but we had a stop to make first – at the Big Yellow Storage unit, to dump the broken scooter and various other bags. The guy running Big Yellow seemed a little unsure on what to charge for a scooter (it’s £5 to store a buggy, £3 for a locker) but happily it fit into one of the bigger lockers so we just used that.

Unencumbered, we set off into the city with a plan – I would stick with Roo and Nathan would take Eva to the preschool bit. This almost fell apart when Eva ran off on her own down the main street but we got her back and I believe Nathan kept a slightly tighter grip on her thereafter.  I don’t actually know, as we lost sight of them minutes after locking up the scooter…but he did appear with her later so I can only assume he didn’t lose her too many times.

Roo and I started our visit on the tour bus, which was just about to leave. Our tour guides were, naturally, kids who were working at the radio station so it was a slightly nervous rendition of the KZ script that we heard. Still, it was helpful to see around all the different activities and get a feel for the size of the thing. Roo was very keen on the idea of firefighting, along with every other child in the world, so as soon as we got off the bus we joined our first queue.

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Now, the queues. There’s no getting around the queues at KidZania. Every review I’ve read so far has mentioned them and I’m not going to buck the trend. The problem is that the 20-minute activities are all-or-nothing kinda deals – you can’t join in halfway through. So even if you arrive 5 minutes after an activity has started and it’s only half-full, you can’t join in until the next cycle starts. Every activity has a limited capacity, so if there are more than about 8 people in front of you in a queue, you know that you’re going to need to wait till the cycle after next. This is all tricky with a small child.

There are loads of issues with the system as it stands at the moment. There’s nothing to do in the queues, so you spend precious KZ minutes entertaining your own child in a confined space. There’s no-one managing the queues, so other kids can easily push in front of yours. And there’s the torment of a child having to watch others having fun when their own fun is half an hour away. As I said, this is all tricky.

But not insurmountable! An extra staff member on the busy queues would make a world of difference – someone to keep kids informed about how long the wait is, keeping track of who’s allowed into the next session and maybe even providing some in-queue entertainment. A step on front that would be maybe a ticket system like they have at Clarks or a screen somewhere, telling you which sessions were starting soon and how full they were. The fire station had a manual clock showing when the next session started but it clearly wasn’t right (it was 1:30 when we were queuing and the clock said the next session started at 12:45). So we were in the queue for 20 minutes without knowing when we’d be out of the queue and having not had much in the way of fun yet. I can forsee this being a repeated complaint among parents but there are some relatively simple solutions to the problem that I hope they’ll consider. Everything about KidZania is so sophisticated, except this one part…but it’s something that comes to dominate your afternoon.

When he did get called in to the fire station, Roo was thrilled. He paid his KidZos, put on his hairnet and helmet and got ready to learn about fire:

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Ysee, this is totally educational too. And the fire station, like everything else, is super cute:

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They watched a video on fire safety, practised some firefighting techniques (drop and roll, crawling through smoke) and awaited a call out. When the emergency call came in, Roo was a little worried:

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But also excited as he piled into the fire engine and they drove off, chanting “We are the firefighters!”:

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The fire was at the Flamingo Hotel, which seems to be a bit of a cursed building, given how often it sets alight. In a cleverly synchronised move, all three emergency services arrived at once – the police set up the barriers, only letting the fire engine and ambulance through, and the firefighters jumped out to man the hoses:

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Was it exciting? Yeah! Exciting enough to justify all the waiting? Heck yeah! Reuben super-enjoyed himself, especially when the building caught back on fire after they thought they’d put it out.

He was so buoyed up that he was ready to try another popular activity straight away. I suggested that maybe he should try a less popular one first, because he might be able to walk straight in. Maybe the power station? But no, the boy wanted to make chocolate:
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On joining the queue, it seemed that our luck was in. The next session started in 5 minutes, the capacity was 8 kids and there were 7 in the queue ahead of him. I counted them many times to make sure. So, what happened as the doors opened? Well, the kid behind Roo pushed in front and he was left outside, pressing his nose against the glass. Literally:

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I have to admit, that bit kinda made me cross. The child was one of the older, unsupervised ones so there was no parent I could politely point out the error to. And the person running the session didn’t seem overly bothered that it had happened. She just told us that the next session started in half an hour and we should queue now to guarantee a place.

So we queued for 30 minutes, watching other people making chocolate. Like I say before, there’s room for improvement in this system.

But let’s be positive. Because at that point, I spotted Nathan and Eva and caught up with what they’d been doing. And now you can too! They’d been to the Science Lab, where Eva was taught to make bubble mix:

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And the kindergarten, which was full of brightly coloured toys, and fun and noisy things:

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No, I mean really noisy:

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When I met them, they’d just come out of the RightZKeepers Residence, which Eva was very keen to show me. I’d just watched Reuben going into his chocolate session at last, so I left Nathan watching him and followed Eva into what turned out to be a giant playhouse.

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The playhouse was fab. Partnered by the Early Learning Centre, it had that trademark ELC mix of educational play with sheer,fun tactileness. There were four rooms – kitchen, bathroom, lounge and bedroom and each one contained many treats for the curious preschooler.

The lounge had a shelf full of books, and a little sofa just perfect for sitting down and reading on:

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Oh, and it also had a dressing up box, which is why she’s dressed as a knight. She was on the look out for a princess to rescue, but none of the other children obliged her. Who could say no to this dashing rescuer?:

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The bedroom was all made out of soft play material, with beds you can jump on and walls you can jump off:

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And it’s also handy for a lie-down, as I saw one father having.

The kitchen is stocked with play food and drinks, including this very full salad tray:

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I doubt Eva’s ever seen that many vegetables assembled in her life. It also had a rack of plates, which one of my friends would be itching to rearrange into rainbow colour:

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My favourite bit was the bathroom, where a giant square bath was filled with wobbly virtual water and fish. I’m sure I’m not doing it justice with that description, so here’s a few photos. Take note of the number of umbrellas Eva needs in the bath:

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By now, I was feeling considerably less grumpy – it was the effect of an activity which was free, unlimited and didn’t require queuing. Roo, meanwhile had been enjoying his chocolate making:

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And soon, he came to join his sister in the bath, dressed as a policeman (apparently):

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I’m not sure whether Roo was meant to be in the playhouse or not, but he needed a bit of letting off steam time after so much queuing and some structured, listening-to-instructions kinda activities. So I let him play, only asking of him that he tried not to squash the little ones too much.

Eva refused to leave the house when Roo and Nathan did, so we played some more while they were off trying to spend the rest of their KidZos:

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We were due to have afternoon tea in the Stadium at 4, so I eventually bribed her downstairs with the promise of cake. We found the boys in a games room next to the Stadium, where they’d paid a princely 8 KidZos to play Jenga:

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Unfortunately, they were being turfed out as we arrived so Eva and I paid another 8 KidZos to play Connect 4 for a few minutes before joining the rest of the Mumsnet party for some very well-earned cake and tea.

It was nice to sit down after a full-on three hours of KidZania. But Eva, as ever, was unpredictable and requested a loo trip just as I was taking my first dram of tea and first bite of pastry. We spent a few minutes in the bathroom and on the way back, caught the last seconds of the KidZania dance. Apparently, 5 times a day all the staff stop what they’re doing and do a giant synchronised dance routine in all corners of the city. It was awesome to see. And as soon as we got back, a big blue dog mascot was waiting to greet the kids:

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The official photographer got some nice pictures of Eva hugging the dog. I only have her running away from it like a loon. A dance class followed, during which I could finally sit down and have my tea, as well as snaffling Eva’s cake. Then it was pretty much home time – we picked up our lovely goody bags (cuddly pilots! Chocolate!!) and went back through Customs, redeeming Roo’s Cadbury’s voucher as we did so (more chocolate!). We were so tired that we just sat on the Central Line for 21 stops all the way back to Woodford because, quite frankly, it was easier than moving.

So, verdict on KidZania? Well, there’s a lot of fun to be had. The set up is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and the detail is impressive. Roo really enjoyed the experiences and would have liked to have done more than two, but I’m not sure I could have coped with more queuing. If they could sort the queuing systems out, it would be non-stop aceness..but as it is, it’s a good day out but not a perfect one.

Disclaimer: I received free entry to KidZania in return for this review. All opinions remain honest and my own.

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