“Kate in Oz” – The Kate & Mim-Mim Premiere – 22/10/16


London is a city of contrasts and it’s fair to say that Eva and I experienced two extremes today – a swanky Soho premiere in the morning and a romp around Epping Forest in the afternoon. Not that she wanted to leave the house at all. No, no. She had a green -pen picture to finish. It’s a miracle that I made it to our first appointment, and even more of a miracle that she was there with me. We hadn’t had the best start. Still, by the time we were on the tube she was all sweetness and light, and we got to Shaftesbury Avenue in time for the premiere of the Kate & Mim-Mim special – “Kate in Oz”.


Now, I hate to do the hipster “I was here first” thing but when it comes to Kate & Mim-Mim, we were early adopters. We reviewed it back in 2014, just before it launched on CBeebies. And today, I got to chat to Kay Benbow  - the controller of CBeebies – about what’s happened with the series since then. Turns out, it’s been a big hit and that’s led to the creation of a one-off special, based on “The Wizard of Oz”. As Kay said, it’s a show with a strong female lead which is something lacking in the kids’ TV world. It’s also about friendship, which is important and reassuring to young kids. Plus, it’s brightly coloured and fast paced and everything that chidlren loved.

We chatted about a few other things too, which I hope are On the Record. She gave me some advice on transitioning from Beebies to CBBC, something that I’ve so far been too scared to do. There are a few transitional kinda shows, like “Arthur” and “Operation Ouch”, which are aimed at the 7-10 end of the CBBC market and there’s a new show starting, called “Roy” which will be shown on both channels…so that might be a good one to help Roo transition. Sob. I can’t believe he’s coming to the end of his Beebies era.

But for now there’s plenty that he still likes on there. Kay and I discussed our mutual love for “Go-Jetters”,which apparently has also been a massive success and there’s new episodes coming. My kids are both hooked on it and want all the toys for Christmas. I have the theme song stuck in my head all the time…and it’s educational too.


At this point, Eva disappeared, having been playing with a large balloon moments earlier. Everyone was starting to go in to the screening, so in a slightly surreal twist the controller of CBeebies and I both had a search around for my child before the special episode started.


The episode was introduced by CatBeebies, who did some rabbity warm-up games before interviewing Kay and Tessa Moore of Freemantle Media about the special episode. We’d later get a photo with Cat, although this might not be the best photo of either her or Eva:


I was really pleased to add another CBeebies presenter to my collection though. Did I mention that Eva also got a hug from the giant purple rabbit himself? When asked later who’d she met, she fittingly quipped “Cat and Mim-Mim”. Genius.


And so to the episode itself. If I haven’t mentioned this before, I need to point out that Eva is incredibly easily spooked. She screams her head off at the mildest of peril and films that she has run out of include “Snow White”, “Secret Life of Pets” and “Angry Birds”. So it was not a surprise that the Wicked-Witch-of-the-West character (Violet, voiced by Cat Deeley) threw her into a terrified panic. But it really isn’t scary at all – Violet is very mildly evil, and her end game is to collect all the purple items in the land of Oz, not to hurt or kill anyone. And, of course, there’s resolution and redemption at the end so I’m glad I made her sit through it. She calmed down and enjoyed it after some initial squealing.

The plot is a pretty simplified version of the Oz classic – Kate find herself not in Mimiloo but at the end of a Yellow Brick Road. From there, she meets her usual friends playing the Good Witch, the Scarecrow, the Tin Man and the Cowardly Lion. And yes, they all learn something about themselves along the way. It’s nicely done, with some funny nods to the original, and the technicolour world of Kate and Mim-Mim really suits the bright colours of Oz (the slippers are purple…of course). And it is definitely, definitely not scary.

But you can judge for yourself! It’s on CBeebies on Oct 29th, at 10:35. Something to look forward to at the end of half term. Funny Bunny Friend, it’s time to come to life again….


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Feel Good Extreme – 15/10/16


If you live in the Walthamstow area, you might have noticed a new leisure centre opening and you may even have discussed it on Facebook (which is as much as I’m saying on that subject). I had certainly noticed it so last weekend Roo and I went to check out the Extreme Play area. Why not Eva? Well, you’d better ask her. Let’s just say she wasn’t displaying the kind of behaviour that allows her to be seen in public.

Logistically, it would also be tricky for me to take both kids on my own – there’s one room for the under 6s and one for the over 6s  and the older kids have to be supervised up to age 8. So, there’s no way for one adult to take a 4-year-old and a 7-year-old and have them both play at the same time. Of course, it was the weekend so I could have enlisted Nathan but on a Saturday he doesn’t always display the kind of behaviour that makes me think he wants to go out in public.

Just me and Reuben then. I registered as a member online, which meant I could book the 90-minute play slot in advance. It was pretty full, so probably wise to do the same if you’re going on a Saturday. The over 6s area is the “Extreme Park”, which includes the trampolining park and a soft play frame. There’s also a ninja run, but that’s for over 13s only. In the same room there’s a climbing wall section, with 6ish different walls  - that needs to be booked separately as “Clip and Climb” as it’s not part of the Extreme Park. The under 6s bit is a different soft play frame, so if you’re booking for a smaller one it’s the “Soft Play” session on the website. Confused yet? Good

On the way there, we spotted this wall, which I imagine is a Wood Street Walls masterpiece:


Reuben observed that some of these shapes were symmetrical and some weren’t. Well observed, Roo. More excitingly, it seemed to have some kind of development going on in front of it….word on the street is it’s going to be a play area. On the corner of Brookscroft Rd and Northbank Rd – if anyone knows more, let me know!


Onto the centre itself. It’s all very shiny and new and there’s a big swimming pool with huge windows (again, there may have been some discussion on Facebook about this). We were super early for Roo’s play session so we went to Coffee Corner for a sandwich and a smoothie:


Then it was play time! We put on our compulsory Extreme trampolining socks (buy when you book…I didn’t have to buy myself a ticket but I did have to buy myself socks) and watched the 4 minute introductory film, which showed us a plethora of different ways you could break a bone while trampolining. Roo’s drama club friend A was cringing into her mum’s coat every time the “crack” noise happened and if my mum had been there, I might have done the same.

Luckily, he didn’t break any bones. But there was lots of trampolining. I even had a go, although I don’t quite have the endurance of a 7-year-old boy. I also wasn’t brave enough to jump off the wall sides, which Roo was. I’ve said it before, but an all-boingy environment suits him:


There was also the Extreme Play Zone, which was described on the website as “4 floors of obstacles and slides”. I’ll simplify that for you – it’s a soft play. But one that’s built on a bigger scale than the under 6s area next door. And one with a slightly creaky sounding slide. I tried my best to ignore that.


Roo had lots of fun but didn’t make it through the full 90 minutes. We left about 15 minutes before the end, which was good because we missed the rush at the cafe. After all that bouncing, the boy naturally needed a brownie and a slushie. But not, as he and I discussed, a brown slushie.


Then I’m not sure we were meant to do this but…we went for a quick run around the track. He’s studying Mo Farah for Black History Month, you see. That’s my excuse. He completed 100m in an impressive 76 seconds. A touch slower than Mo but I didn’t tell him that. I also wanted to see whether we could cut through Chestnut Field on the way back but the gate was locked and so we couldn’t.


Then we got screwed over by the 275, which didn’t stop at the Town Hall. But let’s not dwell on that. It was a lovely mother-boy afternoon out, made better by the absence of the whingey one. If you want to similarly abandon your younger child, have a look here for more info.


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Big Fish Little Fish at Museum of London Docklands – 08/10/16


Phew, that title was a bit of a mouthful. Yes, it’s BFLF time again and this time it was somewhere I’ve always wanted to go to but never got round to – Museum of London Docklands. It’s just kinda out of the way, but I’ve heard great things. So when BFLF invited us out there, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to check out the museum and have some BigFish fun at the same time.

It was also the perfect opportunity to find the secret entrance to the DLR part of Bank station. Last time I took the DLR, Eva and I walked miles to find the platform and Reuben wasn’t with us, despite me repeatedly yesterday that he was (“You remember, Reuben When we went to Mudchute. You remember!” He didn’t remember. Cause he wasn’t there.) So this time, I wanted to see if we could find it a little quicker. All kudos to this blog for helping me out.


It took us a little while to find it but there is indeed a secret entrance to the DLR on King William Street, right next to Starbucks. It’s a lift down to the Northern Line lobby, and it’s intended for customers with a disability or a pushchair, which makes you feel a tad guilty if you have neither. But I see myself as an trailblazer, cutting through the overgrown vines of the Square Mile to bring you new and improved step-free routes. So if you call this lift (and I believe there is an actual person who needs to send it up to you), you can descend to another set of lifts, which then take you to the top of the DLR escalator…and I think there is even a third lift for that part. Then once you’re on the DLR, the world is your step-free Oyster. We’d walked from Liverpool Street (the Central Line for one stop is just not even worth the hassle) so ta-da; step-free all the way from Highams Park to Westferry. You’re welcome.

The next challenge was to the find the museum from the DLR station, as it wasn’t immediately obvious. Luckily another family were looking equally clueless and we eavesdropped as they were given directions by a native. You basically follow the blue cycle path, circle round onto the main road and u-turn back on yourself by the cinema and this brings you out at the back of the museum. It sounds complicated but it was a 4 minute walk, according to Google. Go around the side of the big brown building and this is where it brings you out:


Entrance to the museum is on the left there.

So we’d successfully navigated Docklands. Win! There were also lockers to put all our coats, hats and spare clothes in  (we’ll come back to the spare clothes). Now for some partying. We had our usual BFLF arrangement of chasing a child each, though Nathan’s job was complicated this time by not having a child that slept through the whole thing.


This time he took Roo to the craft table and I took Eva to the dancefloor. Typically though, she was most interested in posing with her own shadow:


After a while, she asked to go to the Mudlarks children’s area, which is an interactive play gallery. There is pirate theme dressing up:




Water play:


Giant lego bricks (this is a superhero, apparently):


And a substantial soft play area, though this is only for under 5s so she was fine but Reuben wouldn’t be. I noticed a curtain that went round the whole thing so presumably you could mark it as off-bounds if a school group went in there. I don’t think Roo went to this bit at all, but there was a lot of stuff he would have liked in there even if he had to stay off the soft play frame. Possibly not worth the risk of meltdown though.


Soon, she was all tired out and needed a drink of water, which I mention only because of the beautiful water dispenser in the cafe:


There was lots more to do in the basement, so we went downstairs in search of a hula-hooping mermaid. When we found her, Eva declared that she had a “fake tail” because it was a pair of “swimming jeans with scales on”. Still, she had awesome hula-hopping  skills and she was ready to teach tiny mermaid wannabes:


That room also had a kaleidoscope screen, which Eva loved standing in front of. Look of the millions of Mummies and Evas!


As with everything that involves looking at herself, I had to drag her away. But there was one more room to investigate…and this one involved fluorescent paint!


At this point, I took off her newish white skirt…although we still ended up with paint everywhere. Even on her newish white coat, which at that moment was still in our locker. It may have had something to do with her fish.

Sadly, I didn’t get a photo of the fish…,but I can get one any time because she yuvved it so much she made me carry it home all the way back to HP.  She painted it reallly thickly with fluorescent paint, which looked good under the UV lights of the Under the Sea room but looked a bit brownish in the daylight. It didn’t dry for a long time. I’m not sure it’s dry now.

The idea was you painted a fish and stuck it on the wall, but you could also just paint on the wall as well. This is my handiwork:


Rave on!

The floor was covered in shredded paper, for messy play and there may have been a few children buried under the piles. I’m not sure. It was dark. Lots of fun though. So much fun that we missed the parachute dance, even though HannahBFLF came down to tell everyone about it. Reuben was disappointed when we went back upstairs, but hey – he was busy adding his own fluorescent fish to the wall.


We got upstairs just as the party was finishing – I barely got to do any dancing but that’s the way of things when you kids are old enough to know their own minds. As the lights went up, they were stubbornly making playdough shapes at the playdough table and we once again had to drag them away. Still, it was a great afternoon.

On the way back, we sat at the very back of the wizard train, looking out. I wouldn’t recommend it, as I felt distinctly sick going backwards into Bank station. The kids thought it was fun though. And it took Eva’s mind off trapping her fingers in the lift door at Westferry. Who says we don’t show them a good time?

The Museum was ace by the way – we’ll go back there another time when it’s a bit calmer. Though it won’t quite be the same without the hula hooping mermaid…


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British Museum – 25/09/16



It’s been a long time since we last visited the British Museum – while I loved the idea of it from E Nesbit books and half-remembered school trips, it never seemed like a very practical place to take small children. So many breakable things. So few interactive things. But Reuben has recently developed an interest in the Romans, so it seemed like a good time to re-visit. Plus, there was some kind of vague church connection with the book of Habbakuk (I think it might be something to do with the Babylonians) and that meant that someone else organised the post-church jaunt down to Bloomsbury. First off, we stopped for a play in the park in Bloomsbury Square:


I think I’ve been there before, while looking for book benches with Roo, but it’s a handy little place to know in an area not overly endowed with slides. The kids took some persuading to leave for the museum and, to be honest, it was a bit of a mission to get in. Traditionally we’ve always gone in through the Great Russell Street gate but this seemed to be Exit Only, with a sign pointing at another gate which had a barrier across it. So how could we get in?


The answer seemed to be to just keep walking round the museum – up past Russell Square and to the Montague Place entrance at the back. I imagine you’re actually supposed to go through that other gate at the front but it really was sealed off.  Maybe it was temporary, I don’t know, but security had definitely stepped up a bit. We had to queue and go through a tent, showing our bags to make sure we didn’t have – as the security guard said – any weapons of mass destruction, barring the small child. His words, not mine.

We got in fairly quickly but I was utterly disorientated. Not helped by my friend Dan asserting that the Babylonian room was one floor up from the floor we were on. Or three. It’s all good. We did find it, but our friends with the buggy probably wished we’d taken the lift.


First, we cut through that most famous room – the Mummies. Predictably, Eva yuvved the gold sparkliness of them. Equally predictably, there was a middle-class mother explaining to her children that the British Museum shouldn’t have the mummies because they belonged to Egypt. It was hot and crowded in there, so we moved on to Babylonia and looked at some bits of pottery and things. The British Museum really is quite hands-off, isn’t it?


Roo did start to get impatient after a while so we moved onto what he wanted to see  - the Romans. We spent quite a lot of time looking at pottery, jewellery and mosaics but again, it was hot and stuffy and the kids started whining very quickly.


Luckily, coffee was on hand. Here on the third floor, there is a generous-sized coffee lounge, which takes card payments (hooray!), serves soya milk (hooray!!) and has amazing cupcakes. We may have spent longer there than we did looking at the actual museum exhibits. I also had time for a quick game of CSI British Museum – how did this dent get into my coffee?


Answers on a postcard please. Preferably one with grubby 4-year-old fingerprints all over it.


Talking of postcard views, here’s the one over the balcony because, whatever else it is, there’s no denying that the British Museum is a bit of a looker.


This ceiling! I love this ceiling!

And these lovely sweepy staircases:


So it seems that our kids are still a little young to be looking and not touching in lots of similar-looking rooms. It’s an impressive collection but I would say that a short and sharp visit is best, and bookending it with snacks even better.

On the way home, we found this rather beautiful piece of mattress-disposal. Bloomsbury: flytipping with class.


Look and learn, Walthamstow!


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BerkoFest – 10/09/16


It’s Nathan’s birthday. Those of you who have seen the early morning wonders bestowed on him by our children will be surprised to learn that there was more to this day than a home made paper aeroplane (Eva) and a home made paper hat (Roo). Yes, it seems a man can desire more on his birthday than just half-arsed folded paper goods…and that’s why I took him to BerkFest. Him and the half-arsed paper folders, obviously.

BerkoFest has been running for a few years, in the Hertfordshire town of Berkhamsted but this is the first time we’ve been. The line up looked good, if a little disjointed as each of the headliners was a slightly different generation. There was Miles Hunt and Erica Nockalls of the Wonder Stuff, beloved of early 90s indie and baggy kids. There was Britpop darlings Republica, who I guess I consider “my” era. Then there was James Walsh of Starsailor, who were more early 2000s and so a little past my ear – though I think Nathan went to see them once because a colleague was stalking a fan of the band.

It’s a small festival – you can tell it’s small because the parking is on the residential street just outside. There also weren’t signs to the fest from the main road, which I was surprised about. But we found it just fine and it’s certainly nice to have a hassle-free entry  - just park, and walk in. It was also, on this day, a particularly wet festival. I’d had an eye on the forecast all week and it never shifted off those double-raindrop clouds. So I went to the army surplus store yesterday and stocked up on family waterproofs, which I then managed to somehow present to Nathan as an extra gift this morning (a cagoule AND a paper hat – oh family, you are really spoiling me). Here’s Eva, weatherproofed and ready to go:


I won’t lie to you readers – we needed it. The rain did not stop all day. But the army surplus did its job and we survived the day undrenched. Hooray for forward planning!


When we got in, the Hackney Colliery Band were on the main stage and there were bubbles everywhere for the kids to chase. I would have liked to watch them but Reuben was keen to explore and only let us stay for one song before we had to go and see what was in the tent with the bunting. Turned out to be someone’s 40th birthday party. Huh, wasn’t expecting that. Luckily, a steward saw us looking a bit lost and shepherded us into the Hartbeeps tent just in time for the first Baby Rave of the day.


Roo might be a touch old for baby raving but the wigwam was dry and warm and we were happy to get stuck in. Plus, he has some immense moves. No-one has “Tommy Thumb Game” like the birthday boy though:


And you can guess who reayyey yuved the accessories:


It was fun and energetic, with pompoms, star jumps and singalongs. At one point we popped outside for a quick parachute game in the rain:


Then back inside for some chill out time, singing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.  It finished when the drumming workshop started next door – you could say it finished because the drumming workshop next door started. So we transitioned to the drumming, still clutching our purple Hartbeeps goody bags (the kids liked the ducks but sadly, I think they’re probably not target market for the snacks in there. They get a bit sniffy about snacks with nutrients in).


Drumming was…fun! The guy with the whistle (from Umbanda Percussion Workshops) really loved his job. I saw him on and off all day, banging out those rhythms with the same amount of energy and enthusiasm, no matter how wet it was getting. The guy at the back – he was more restrained but he, like Baloo of the Jungle Book, was feeling the beat. I’m not sure if the neighbouring stallholders were feeling the beat too by the end of the day though.



As you’d expect, Reuben got really into the noise-making and even managed to get some of the drum patterns right when he decided to use his listening ears. Eva was a little more pathetic in his drumming but I think she enjoyed it too. As did Nathan and I!

Weirdly, it was still raining so we went to the beer tent for a coke and a mango juice, and listened to the sounds of a young man whose name I didn’t catch (feel free to tweet me if it’s you!). We chilled out for a bit, went in search of the loos, bought some lunch and came back to the beer tent. It was good to be out of the rain for a bit and we could still hear the main stage, where a band were doing the inevitable Bowie tribute (“All the Young Dudes”). At some point, both children tried and failed to splat a rat:


We still had an hour or so before Miles and Erica, so we dived into the SandyArt tent. The kids had done some sand art on the Isle of Wight, so they were practically pros. Reuben raced through his, filling his “Arsenal” footballer as quickly as he possibly could (don’t ask why he’s decided to be an Arsenal fan…we’re just waiting this phase out) but Eva, characteristically, was doing hers very very slowly and carefully. First, Ariel got a black outline:


Then a green tail:


Then her features, her skin and a stripy background….but all ever so slowly. She was doing it for a full hour. An hour! Even Roo probably burned up about 20 minutes doing it, and they were both really proud of what they’d made. Here’s Eva’s finished product:


I think it’s beautiful in its own way.

Eva was doing it for so long that I missed the start of Miles and Erica’s set – although nothing is very far away at BerkoFest so actually I could hear it from the SandyArt tent. Reuben and Nathan went down to watch while I hurried Eva along, filling in Ariel’s eyes ever so delicately with white sand.


But we made it to the front just at the right time. Announcing one of their “very old singles”, they played “Circlesquare”, whose lyrics I am very familiar with, thanks to my friend Claire scrawling them all over my A-Level English folder. We’ll put aside the issue of whether it’s acceptable to write song lyrics on someone else’s folder without their permission (it’s not) but I remain very fond of that song. Is that a smile that hangs beneath your nose?

The hits kept on coming – “Size of a Cow”, “Welcome to the Cheap Seats”, “Golden Green” and “Here Comes Everyone”. We were seriously wet by this point, but dancing to keep warm and shouting till our voices were hoarse. Along with the band, not at them you must understand. The kids were dancing too and there was even a sort of toddler moshpit at one point. Look how happy the birthday boy was:


But also how wet. Back to the beer tent for coffees and hot chocolates but when the kids spilt their hot chocolates for the fifth time, we moved to the relative quiet of the Swan Youth Centre Tent, where the kids lounged on the floor and ate snacks. It got less quiet once headliners The Visitors came onstage but Roo liked their rocking sound (this from the boy in the Black Sabbath t-shirt) and Eva just lay in my lap. I think we were nearing exhaustion. We stayed to listen to the inevitable Bowie tribute (“Moonage Daydream”) and then pulled out our final trump card – the sweetie stall.


We’d already given up hope of seeing James Walsh but we both really wanted to make it through Republica’s set so it seemed like a bag of pic and mix might be our only way of doing that. Sugared up and hyped up, we bounced along with Saffron as she sang old and new songs – the biggest cheer so far of the set was, predictably, “Drop Dead Gorgeous”.

Saffron seemed so pleased that such a lot of people had stayed to see their set, despite the rain and cold and we were pleased that she was pleased. Of course we remember Republica! I mentioned them to a friend and she nodded nostalgically and said “Mmm…#hairgoals”. You’ll be pleased to know that Saffron is still a #hairgoals icon:


Towards the end, Reuben needed to go to the loo so we nipped off and returned to the opening chords of “Ready to Go”. It was prophetic – we were back (from the portaloo) and we were ready to go (now that we’d heard the song we waiting for). I felt slightly bad for sneaking off before the very end of the set but hey, we didn’t want to get caught up in traffic getting out.

As we drove home, the sun came out and apparently it did so too at BerkoFest, just in time for James Walsh. Maybe we should have stayed but we’d pulled out all the stops with the kids and the next stop was meltdownville. Being a parent is often about knowing qhen to quit. Plus, we saw a rainbow over the Enfield reservoir as we drove home, which was a lovely end to the day.

Happy birthday Mr LWAT and thanks for having us BerkoFest!





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LWAT is 500 – A Monopoly Special pt 5 (The Short Version)



Having rambled on for 6000 words about our Monopoly travels around London, I thought it’d be useful to have a quick summary of the route and stops, in case anyone else fancies doing it. It’s split over two days, child-friendly and at each place I’ve put our planned stop in brackets (we didn’t stop at all of them).  Each set had a theme, some of which worked better than others:

Browns: Parks

Blues: Gardens

Greens: Shops

Yellows: Tourist attractions

Dark Blues: BFG Jars

Oranges: Rest points

Reds: Animal statues

Pinks: Flags

As I mentioned in the other posts, the BFG Jars are a temporary trail but there are often those kinda things around London (elephants, book benches, Shauns etc) so you may well be able to replace the dark blues with a different kind of find-it challenge.

So, day 1 (all connections were walked/scooted by my kids)

Monopoly Day 1 Actual


Start at Green Park station.

Take the exit onto Piccadilly (suggested stop The Hard Rock Cafe Shop and Vault). Follow Piccadilly to Hyde Park Corner for Park Lane (suggested stop BFG Jar near Admiralty Arch) .Double back and go through Mayfair (suggested stop BFG on Bond Street) to Bond Street (suggested stop confusingly not on Bond Street but nearby – the Royal Institution). Walk straight up Bond Street to Oxford Street (suggested stop the Disney Store). Then east down Oxford Street, cut through Hanover Square onto Regent Street (suggested stop Hamleys) and then Great Marlborough Street for lunch (suggested stop Five Guys) and back down Regent Street to Vine Street for pudding (BYO Ice cream -suggested place Freggo on Swallow Street. And don’t be too precious about eating standing in the road next to some bins)

Cross Piccadilly Circus to Coventry Street (suggested stop Ripley’s Believe It or Not/Bubba Gump), then onto Leicester Square (suggested stop Lego Store when it opens… M&M World til then). Follow the path at the south of the square, where the Empire used to be, along the side of the National Gallery and come out on Pall Mall (suggested activity – flag spotting). Turn left onto Trafalgar Square (suggested activity animal statue spotting). Cross the road at the bottom of Trafalgar Square to find both Whitehall and Northumberland Avenue(suggested activity – more flag spotting) then head back northwards and turn right onto the Strand (suggested activity – same as Trafalgar Square). Walk up to Wellington Street, near Waterloo Bridge, and turn left up there until it turns into Bow Street (suggested stop – coffee at the Royal Opera House) then back down to Aldwych and follow round till The Strand becomes Fleet Street  (suggested activity – same as Trafalgar Square), Rest!!

Day 2 (mostly public transport links)

Monopoly Day 2 Actual

Start at Liverpool Street station. Get the Hammersmith & City line to Whitechapel (suggested stop – Vallance Gardens), then District line to Tower Hill. Walk to Fenchurch Street station, then walk up Crutched Friars to the bus stop for the 42 bus. Alight just past the Bricklayers’ Arms roundabout for Old Kent Rd (suggested stop- don’t stop. Keep moving). Get the bus back up to Elephant & Castle (53, 453, 172, 63 all go there) and catch the Bakerloo line to Marylebone. Then the 205 bus to Euston (suggested stop St James’ Gardens), walk to Kings Cross, up Pentonville Road (suggested stop Joseph Grimaldi Park) up to Angel Islington! (suggested stop…anywhere that serves food or caffeine by this point. Though we did have Barnsbury Park pegged as a potential stop off point)

And that’s it – 26 Monopoly stops in two days. Whether you add in the utilities is up to you. But if you attempt it, do let me know how you got on!


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LWAT is 500 – A Monopoly Special pt 4 (Light Blues and Half the Stations)


Oh gentle reader, we’re nearing the end now. I know it’s been a hard going series of blog posts,but trust me, doing it was harder than reading about it. When we finished part 3 we were boarding the Bakerloo Line in Elephant & Castle. Join us now as we emerge in Marylebone to bag another station.

Now, Fenchurch Street may be down the scale of London stations but Marylebone is smaller still – in the busyness scale, it sits one below Fenchurch and it hasn’t even given its name to  Hitchhiker’s character. That’s probably why I’ve never been there before, and why we spent less than six minutes there, all told. At 15:51, the kids were posing by the tube sign:


but by 15:57 we were upstairs, across the concourse and out:

There wasn’t much reason to linger, although it was quite pretty as Central London stations go. So we hopped on the 205 bus to Euston to get our first light blue. But before we got a photo of the road itself, we had a park to explore. After the disappointment of the Old Kent Road, it was lucky we had another playground planned. In fact, I had “gardens” as the theme of the light blue set but that went out of the window pretty quickly. We did manage this one, though. St James’ Garden just behind the station:


Google Maps had failed to definitively tell me whether there was a playground there or not. So I’m happy to clear that up for you all – yes, there was. It looks like this:


It’s not huge but I imagine if you’re killing time before your train to Manchester, it would be a handy thing to know about. I could have done with it on the CBeebies panto day. Eva yuved it so much she wanted to yive there. This is her house:


And she and Reuben have their own double car for getting about:


Unfortunately, they seemed to have a weird ban on playing Monopoly in this playground. Eek! How did they know that’s what we were doing? Look, here it is – no scotty dogs:


I expect they’ve banned top hats as well. Bah Moneybags!


While we were there, Roo wanted to play with a hoopla set he’d got from a nice American lady just off the Strand two days before. There was some friction between him and Eva, which naturally occurs with any game the two of them play. Then there was some friction between his hoopla ring and my face, which is another natural occurrence but didn’t put me in the best mood. We also needed to find some toilets pretty quickly, so we marched off in the direction of the Wellcome Collection and Friends House, hoping one of them was still open at 5ish. Points go to Wellcome, once again.

And look, we were on Euston Road proper!


At this point, I only knew one thing – that we had three stops to go and we were going to do them, no matter how whiny anyone got. My thought was we’d walk to Kings Cross, have a coffee there and then push on to Islington. I had a mind to check out Drink, Shop and Do as we’ve failed to go there quite a few times now. This would be another fail.


We made it to Kings Cross – yes! But then there was much in the way of dithering. While we linger on the Caledonian Road crossing, I’ll tell you a bit of information that has been thus far missing – what we did at the stations. This was Roo’s idea, but I supported it – a mini-quiz about each station. I’ve been training him to be a tube geek all his life but it’s really accelerated this summer and he’s been planning our journey every time we’ve gone out. Some of his suggestions are wacky (home from Stratford via Liverpool Street) but hey, he’s learning.

So I gave him 4 mini quizzes about each station. Can you name all the lines that go through Kings Cross? Or know where the closest underground to Fenchurch Street is? Roo does. And could you tell us whether we were having dinner out or at home? Because we really were dithering for this long. Along the way, we got our Pentonville Road photo though:



We finally decided – we would skip coffee, and the Pentonville Road park (Joseph Grimaldi Park if you’re interested) and catch a bus on up to the Angel. Are you sensing a lack of enthusiasm in these later photos? Well, I was too and that’s why we decided once and for all to dine at the Angel. A bit of peri-peri spice would perk us up enough to get home, right?

First though, we needed to take care of one last bit of business. We had crossed the finish line and we needed a photo to prove it:


Now, where were those grumpy children I was keeping around the place?


There they are! It’s a measure of how tired and hungry we all were by this point that I had a great idea but didn’t even have the energy to pursue it. We didn’t plan to do the utilities, but after the spontaneous water play in part two made a kind of child-friendly waterworks, it seemed fitting to look for something to act as the electricity company. Nathan rejected my plan for spontaneous electricity play but as we trooped through Angel, it suddenly struck me that we were in the vicinity of the legendary club Electrowerkz! Of course, it wouldn’t be open but if we just went and posed outside it we could….no….too tired….give me chicken….now.

And that slightly pathetic note is the end of our Monopoly quest. Congratulations if you made it through all four posts – there will be one more, with a simplified version of our route but thank you if you’ve read even some if it. It was indeed epic. Happy 500th LWAT!


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Lwat is 500- A Monopoly Special pt 3 (The Browns and Half the Stations)


As you might have gathered from the start of Part 2, our Monopoly game got delayed by 24 hours or so. You don’t need the details. But luckily we had Bank Holiday Monday as back-up time and we were gonna need it. The browns, the light blues and the stations all lay ahead.

At first, it seems like quite an uneven split between the days  -17 to hit the first day, 9 the next. But the 9 on the second days are outliers – they require public transport to get to and between. True, the light blues and Marylebone all form a lovely linear stretch but it’s a 3 mile one…so there’s still a bit of fussing with buses to be done. And the triangle of Liverpool Street/Fenchurch Street/Whitechapel Road is just irritating. We’ll talk about that shortly.

We started at Liverpool Street – a natural point as it’s where our train comes in. We’d been there very briefly on Saturday night but had neglected to take a photo so it needed redoing again really. Best not to dwell on what could have been. Anyway, here they are, full of energy for a new day’s Monopolying:


From there, we took a ridiculously convoluted route to Whitechapel. The main ticket office at Liverpool Street was closed over the weekend for maintenance, so we had to go into the tube via an entrance near Platform 1. It says there’s no access to the Hammersmith & City Line etc but today there was. Long, meandering access which brought us back round to the other side of the tickets barriers we’d normally use. Sigh. Then we got the platform and there were no H&C trains, only Met ones. Double sigh. Then I got Aldgate and Aldgate East confused and decided to just jump on a Met Line train because I swore Aldgate was pretty much on the end of Whitechapel Road and we didn’t need to go to the actual station.


I was right on the very last point – there was no need to go to Whitechapel station – but wrong on so many others and my dithering saw us catching a number 25 bus straight past an interesting looking park (the Altab Ali Park) to a wholly mediocre one tucked just behind the station. I bring you our first playground of the Monopoly board: Vallance Gardens.


The street name may well ring some bells with some of my friends. Again, best not to dwell on these things. I think rum may have been involved.

Which may also be the case with whoever designed the climbng frame. Why put on a ladder that twists through 90 degrees? Won’t everyone just fall off? Reuben wants to call the park and complain. It’s not a bad play area to spend 20 minutes in but it really wasn’t worth traversing London for. Next time, I’d like to go to the Altab Ali Park – I’m vaguely aware of the story behind it and it looked like a nice space to hang out in – a positive thing to come from a horrible event. But instead, we wandered  in circles round the Crossrail site and got on the tube back to Tower Hill, for Fenchurch Street:


“I can see the gherkin” one of family members proclaimed. Yes, let’s ignore that reminder of just how close we are to Liverpool Street, shall we? We seemed to have been on the go for ages and not achieved very much at all. There’s nothing at Fenchurch Strret so we didn’t linger, but it kinda irks me that it’s included at all. It’s fairly insignificant as London stations go – in the 16 years we’ve been in London, I’ve only caught a train from there twice and once might have involved rum. Actually, I think it was whiskey. I dunno. Ask Nathan and his BFF Dave.

Point is, it’s a piddly little ‘un – sure, its 16 million annual passengers seems impressive but only until you compare it with the other stations in London. Waterloo has nearly 100 million and even Stratford nearly doubles it with 31 million. It’s 16th on the lsit of London’s busiest stations, beaten by non-termini like Vauxhall and Highbury and Islington. But the whole selection process is a mystery – the four biggest London stations are Waterloo, Victoria, Liverpool Street and London Bridge yet only one makes it onto the board. Why so?

Once again, Tim Moore appears to have the answer – apparently Victor Watson (the Managing Director of Waddingtons) came down from Yorkshire to pick the streets and stations for inclusion. He alighted at Kings Cross, which was operated by LNER. saw a poster for three other LNER stations and bam! that was it. They were immortalised in black and greenish. There are a few variations on the story but the arrival at Kings Cross also explains the clusteredness of the light blue set. Again, we’ll come back to that.

Anyway, rejoin us post-rant as we journey from Fenchurch Street to the beginning of the board – Old Kent Road. On the way, we saw another Vine Street, which wasn’t a huge improvement on the first. It’s split into two and the northern end really has some striking similarities to the one we visited on Saturday:


Gotta love some back doors and bins!

We’d promised the kids another park at Old Kent Road, because (slightly neglected) playgrounds were our theme for the browns. You just don’t get them closer in to Zone 1, ysee. And neither, it emerges, do you get them at the Bricklayers’ Arms roundabout. We’d lived close to there when we first moved up here and I don’t remember a park but Google Maps assured me there was one, right off the roundabout – the Bricklayers’ Arms Recreation Ground.

And so there was – we could glimpse it through thick hedgerow. What we couldn’t work out, however, was how to get into it. We walked the perimeter and there was no sign of a gate -so I eventually discerned that you had to go through the estate, which had “Private Property” stamped all over this. We gave it up as a bad job and went to Lidl for ice cream instead.


Lidl only sold giant multipacks of ice creams and my children couldn’t agree which one they wanted. The queues were also giant. We gave it up as a bad job and went to Elephant and Castle Tesco Metro for ice cream instead.


That’s when I was a little surprised by our surroundings – half the Elephant roundabout seems to have disappeared and the pavement now stretches, plaza-style, to the giant silver cube on one side. It was an improvement but a confusing one. The Elephant and Castle pub also seems to have undergone a hipster renovation, doing that thing where hipsters don’t like to put names on the outside of buildings. A lonely-looking pair of letters (“EC”) were the only outward symbols of what had been before.

I never believed anyone when they said that the Elephant was gentrifying but slowly, slowly it seems to be happening. I hear they have a Boxparkesque Street Food market there now too. Unaffected by this hipsterness, we stuck with our plan and bought ice lollies from Tesco Metro, which thankfully stocked a choice the kids could agree on. As we sat on the new plaza, a Pentacostal church group gathered next to us and began loudly proclaiming that Jesus was Lord of Elephant and Castle. This caused some concern to Reuben, who kept whispering to me “Not just of Elephant and Castle. Jesus isn’t just the Lord of Elephant and Castle…is he?”

I’ll leave you with that thought to ponder and hope it distracts somewhat from our entirely disappointing Old Kent Road trip (take your kids! You too can look at a park and then look at an ice cream!) . If we’d ventured further down the road we would at least have found Toys R Us but that would leave us both out of the way and out of pocket…so we didn’t. Our next move would take us to Marylebone and beyond but that’s for Part 4 I think….


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LWAT is 500 – A Monopoly Special pt 2 (Oranges, Reds, Pinks, Yellows)


As any Monopoly player will tell you, fate is a fickle mistress. One minute you’re building houses on Oxford Street, next you’re having to mortgage them all to pay your brother-in-law his Mayfair rent. And will he let you go out gracefully? Nooooo…”You can stay in” he says, as he merrily strips you of both cash and assets, even though all you want to do by this point is go and have a large Baileys.

Such is the luck of the real-life Monopoly player too. Last night I wrote Part One of this post, confident that we’d complete it today, racking up the light blues, stations and browns after church. But as I saved draft, there was a  curious noise from upstairs and Roo gave us a good reason to postpone for 24 hours. Will we do it on Bank Holiday Monday? Who knows? Maybe if we roll a double.

But I can still tell you about the rest of yesterday’s epic day out, where we bagged the dark blues, greens, yellows, pinks, reds and oranges. At the end of Part One,we were lunching in Marlborough Street, having visited Piccadilly, Park Lane, Mayfair, Bond Street and Oxford Street. We’d visited Regent Street briefly but hadn’t yet made our shop stop..and this was a big one. Hamleys!


Now, I mentioned before that I was determined not to spend too much money on this trip and so far the children were subscribing to it. We had got in and out of the Disney Store with wallets intact as the kids were happy just to look at all the exciting things and have some photos with the life-size Elsas and Iron Men. I was confident that we could repeat this in Hamleys, especially as we were sticking to the ground floor and there was always a lot going on there.



And so it was today – a boomerang demonstration at the front, a tub of “magic snow”(no, nothing illegal) round the side and a magic show at the back. All free entertainment for my two little Monopoly-crawlers. Eva also wanted to shake hands with every teddy on the wall of teddies: And she reayyyyeyyy yiked the Too Many Ponies section:


If we’d gone upstairs we may never have left, so it’s probably good that we stayed on the ground floor. We were in and out in 20 minutes with no money spent. Goodness knows how, as the next stop was less than alluring.


 Vine Street. The dullest of all the dull oranges. I thought there must be something there to make it board-worthy but no. It’s just the back door of the Grand Meridien and nothing else. Tim Moore, of the excellent “Do Not Pass Go“, reckons it was the police station that warranted its inclusion – it matches with the Bow Street Runners and the Marlborough St Magistrates’ Court to make a legal-themed set. But the police station is no more and there is nothing in its place. I’d planned to have pudding in Vine Street – buying an ice cream en route for a bit of BYO Vine Street fun. We were all still mega-full from lunch though and the back-alley smell wasn’t particularly enticing. Plus Reuben needed the toilet, so we took a swift photo and headed to Waterstones Piccadilly to use the facilities.

Waterstones is a good place to remember if you get caught short in Central London and don’t want to have to pay. The toilets are located rather charmingly on the 5 1/2th floor and, if that makes you think of Harry Potter, you’re not alone. They have a replica of Harry’s understairs cupboard near the back door, complete with portrait of Dudley Dursley on the outside. We didn’t go to the children’s department but I imagine that’s a fun place to hang out too.


 It was fitting that we were back on a yellow street, as our next two destinations were yellows. Which means more tourist attractions! I had Ripley’s in mind for Coventry Street (I think you can hang out in the lobby for free) but my Piccadilly-Circus-avoidance brought us out by the horses statue so we’d gone right past it. Time for an emergency tourist attraction and Bubba Gump provided just that – obviously the kids haven’t seen “Forrest Gump” yet but I got a photo of them on Forrest’s bus stop bench, next to a box of “Life is like a box of chocolates”  chocolates. Eva is clearly trying to get into the chocolates here:


We got waylaid much longer than planned at our next stop, Leicester Square, and I finally had to spend some money on something non-edible. Our planned stop was the M&M Store, which we ducked into, to pose on their M&M bus:


My children had been dazzled by the bright lights of Hamleys and the Disney Store, so the M&M Store didn’t hold the thrill it once did. There was a Nickolodeon Store next door which I think they may have liked, but I’ve avoided PawPatrolMania so far and I don’t think that place would have helped. There’s a Lego Store coming soon too, so next time we visit I imagine Roo would want to pop in there. But what was the real thrill of Leicester Square?


OMGoodness. There is water play there now. And a man blowing giant bubbles. This was a slippery combination indeed and, as you can guess, we were not prepared for any of this. The fountains started off really small, so the kids just took their shoes off and paddled. Then the fountains got less small, and Eva collided with a toddler boy and went right into a puddle. Drastic action was needed. Luckily, we were in Leicester Square so there were outlets available:


London Baby, yeah. I was disappointed that I couldn’t find any Monopoly-themed t-shirts but these were on-theme enough for now. Once they were dry though, we needed to move hastily on and avoid the wet stuff. Easier said than done:


What’s that though? Another Dream Jar? Go fetch, kids!


This one made Reuben really hungry apparently. Most things make Reuben hungry.

We were now handily positioned to cut through to Trafalgar Square, our next stop. And on the way we found another Orange Street:


Does that count? It should count.

It was getting late, but I felt like we were on the gateway of the pink/red power bloc. A few swift moves could knock down five of them. I thought we’d have to go a bit out of the way for Pall Mall but I didn’t realise it came right up to the edge of Trafalgar Square.

Another one in the bag. Boom! I hadn’t come up with much for the pinks and the reds as there’s not a lot of child-friendly places on Northumberland Avenue. So here’s my slightly lame “challenge” – for the pinks, find the flags of as many different countries as possible. For the reds, spot a statue of an animal. Come on kids, it’s fun!

To be honest we were so near the end of the day by now that we were motivated purely by collecting streets. The flags challenge would have worked well on a more leisurely day, when we could stroll past all the embassies and take photos of every flag we could. As it was, we found one on each pink. Starting with the Canadian flag on Pall Mall:


The animal statue in Trafalgar Square is a pretty easy win but Reuben was soon distracted by not one but two floating Yodas. Who needs more than one floating Yoda in a small space? Roo asked both how they did the floating thing but neither answered. I assume it was The Force.

Anyway, here they are in Trafalgar Square. No road sign needed for ID, right?


And here’s the classic kids-with-lion shot. Nathan went up there with them and then stayed up to haul another, unrelated to us, little girl up there as well. At her father’s request, obviously. That sentence sounds strange without the context.


Crossing the road at the bottom of the square to get some pinks, we noticed something odd about the Green Men lights. One appeared to have a pair of green children instead but I realise now that it was two adults with a heart in the middle. I’ve googled it and it’s all part of this project – replacing the green men with trans and gay symbols for Pride. I’m not sure who gets the credit for it but it was kinda neat.


The opposite corner gave us two pinks and two flags – a British one on Whitehall and a Korean one on Northumberland Avenue. Again, this would have been less lame if we’d actually gone down the roads but we were tired. Here are the photos though -



And Northumberland Avenue:


Whitehall also served up a Pret that didn’t sell those frozen berry smoothie things, after I’d promised Roo he could have one. So McDonalds on the Strand it was then. Which obviously meant another red down, along with its animal statue (antelope outside the SA Embassy):


Our rest breaks seemed to all be very long. We only had two more stops scheduled for the day but even Nathan was whining and asking for bed at this point. He’d opted for a vanilla thickshake and I think it made him sluggish. Come on, family! Just Bow Street and Fleet Street and then we’re done for the day! And they’re close, right?

Not as close as you’d think. Bow Street is the opposite end of the Strand and then a substantial way up Wellington Street. It was 7PM and the pavements were thick with theatregoers, which impeded us somewhat. Still, we made it to Bow Street where, once again, we failed to do anything more than take a photo and look at the giant ballerina on the side of the Royal Opera House. Dang oranges. We did bag another bonus Dream Jar though:


Fleet Street was another trek again. The Strand really is longer than anyone thinks, as it carries on the other side of Aldwych and past the Royal Courts of Justice. Turns out there was a full mile’s walking/scooting from McDonalds to the end point – it was a bit more effort than any of us were ready for that time of day.


But lo! The entrance to Fleet Street and with it, an animal statue! 17 streets achieved, three quarters of the board done minus the stations and it was definitely time to get the bus to Liverpool Street and from there the train home. And we completely forgot to take a photo of Liverpool Street as a stop, so I guess we’re revisiting that tomorrow.


To summarise then, here’s the map of our first day:

Monopoly Day 1 Actual

Piccadilly, Park Lane, Mayfair, Bond Street, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Marlborough Street, Vine Street, Coventry Street, Leicester Square, Pall Mall, Trafalgar Square, Northumberland Avenue, Whitehall, Strand, Bow Street, Fleet Street. Dark Blues, Greens, Yellows, Oranges, Pinks and Reds. 4.53 miles walked/scooted. Can I sleep yet??

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LWAT is 500 – A Monopoly Special pt 1 (Dark Blues, Greens, Some Other Bits…)


Hooray! It’s time to pull a very special party popper. If I can summon the energy…oh wait…no, that’s too much. I’m so tired. So, so tired. You’ll see why.

We decided to celebrate by visiting every road on the Monopoly board. It was an idea that occurred to me while walking down Whitechapel Road a few weeks back. And simultaneously, it occurred to me that some of the squares are quite far out and so it wouldn’t be feasible to do it in one day. I know pub crawlers manage it but a) they can move at adult walking pace b) they can go on late into the night and c) they can be easily persuaded to leave somewhere and move on to the next place. Actually, given this is drunken people in pubs we’re talking about, maybe scrap point c).

So my idea was to do it in a relaxed fashion, over a bank holiday weekend. Saturday for the Central London ones (dark blues, greens, yellows, oranges, reds, pinks), Sunday for the outliers (light blues, browns, stations) and then Monday for anything we failed to do on the other two days. Bear in mind we needed to fit church in on Sunday morning as well. To add an LWAT twist to proceedings, every set would have some kind of theme – places to visit, or a challenge to fulfil. As you can guess, some of these took enormous liberties and stretched the concept way beyond breaking point. And besides, we improvised a lot on the day. Let’s get on to what happened when we actually did this. It’ll be long but hopefully it’ll inspire you to do similar. Or never leave the house again. One of those. I’ll try to do a clean version of the route in a separate post for people who don’t fancy ploughing through several thousand words of Wot I Did and especially don’t want to hear about That Scene in Caffe Nero.


We started at Green Park tube. I had an order planned but it was in practicality order rather than any board order, although some of the sets did occur naturally together. Green Park was chosen because it was easy for us to get to as it’s on the Victoria Line and also because it opens straight onto a scoring street -Piccadilly, a Yellow. For those of you like Roo who are aggrieved that the set colours don’t match similar sounding tube lines (“But Piccadilly has to be dark blue!”) well…get over it. He soon did.


The theme for the yellow set was “tourist attractions”, as you’d expect for such a lively set. I wasn’t super keen to spend any money, except on food and drink, so was on the look out for tourist stuff we could do for free. And there was the perfect place on Piccadilly – the Hard Rock Cafe shop. Roo and Nathan both like a bit of hard rock and Eva and I enjoy a bit of twee indie rock so…something for everyone really. Plus there’s an added extra – you can get a free tour of their basement museum, called The Vault.


They have Black Sabbath’s drum kit, which Reuben was excited about, and David Bowie’s guitar, John Lennon’s jacket, Jimi Hendrix’s guitar… it’s well worth a visit. It’s not a huge area, so we locked up the scooters outside (free parking?) in case we accidentally damaged a priceless rock artefact. Or that guitar from Maroon 5.


So, one street down –  many to go. Our theme for the dark blues is already showing the cracks in my plan – there’s not a heap of child-friendliness in Mayfair or Park Lane (I felt like a visit to Hyde Park would throw us way off-course before we’d even started). That’s why I chose the BFG Dream Jars as our dark blue mission – I knew there was one at Admiralty Arch and another on Bond Street. This is not going to work if you try this trail next week as they’re only running till 31st August. Still , it worked for us today. Here’s the one on Park Lane:


And here are the kids by the Park Lane sign:

mono3You’ll notice in all these photos that they’re holding Monopoly £500 notes. Are you getting the subtle theme yet?

Now, I’d started out later than planned so we were approaching lunchtime and hadn’t covered much ground at all. The kids were whiney, I was hungry so what to do? Stop for cake of course! I didn’t have anything really in mind for Bond Street so thought maybe we’d have a coffee there. But then we walked past Caffe Nero, just off Half Moon Street and I caved in. Yes, we’d only marked off two stops (though we were in Mayfair so technically that was number three) but I needed sugar and caffeine and the children needed…just sugar.


Then there was a scene. Eva has many annoying habits but her latest is this – you go to a cafe, ask her what she wants. She ums and errs and eventually chooses something. You sit down, start enjoying your own sugary caffeine and then her face crumbles. What is wrong, you wonder. She fails to produce anything but a whiney noise for what seems like hours. Your coffee grows cold. Eventually out it comes – “I changed my mind.” She wanted what Reuben has or what I had or really just anything other than what I’d just queued up and paid for.

She tried this shizz today. You can imagine how it went. Luckily, she hadn’t so much as breathed on the blueberry muffin she’d chosen, so the lovely and patient staff were happy to change it for a chocolate one. I’m not nearly so lovely and patient. Importantly though, we were sugared up and ready to continue our mission. In fact, there may have been something stronger than caffeine in the coffee as both Nathan and I swear we saw a man walk by with a giant blue parrot on each shoulder. The kids saw nothing. Mayfair is one crazy place. And here’s the official photo from that stop:


We found the Dream Jar right opposite the spot where Old Bond Street meets New Bond Street. Perfect, as there is no telling which of the two “Bond Street” is meant to be. I say we found it – we more remembered where it was from the time we went to the Project MC2 launch two weeks ago. I was hoping Reuben wouldn’t notice this and would enjoy hunting for it..but alas, I was rumbled. It took a bit of “Ah yeah…I think you’re right Roo” to convince him that I didn’t also know where it was.


But Mayfair Dream Jar was secured and it didn’t matter too much that we had nothing for Bond Street. The green set’s theme is “shops” but the only remotely suitable-looking shop on  Google Maps was Ralph Lauren Kids. And it was the same IRL – Ralph Lauren had some giant pencils and books in its window but it did stand out in a sea of extremely delicate, valuable, sparkly things. Not to fear though – I have a child-friendly recommendation for you if you choose to do this trip not on a weekend. It’s from the Project MC2 launch again and it’s the exhibition space at the Royal Institution. It has giant lighting up squares to push! And a reasonably priced cafe! It’s closed on a Saturday but here’s a photo from when we were there:


 It kinda fits the “holding up banknotes” theme of the day. Have I over-used the word “theme” yet? Is it becoming a theme in itself? Next in the green set was Oxford Street and that was a long scoot away, all the way up New Bond Street. On the way though, we stopped for a chat with these two fellows:


It really looks like Winston and Eva are getting on well, doesn’t it?

I definitely had a shop stop in mind for Oxford Street. Where would Eva realllly yuv? Somewhere with an entire floor of Disney Princess tat? Why yes, we can find one of those. And yook, it comes with a Cinderella pumpkin carriage!


Roo was upstairs with Nathan and Iron Man:


And eventually we found an Oxford Street sign for them to pose with:


I find princesses en masse make me hungry, so it was lucky that I’d pencilled in the next stop as lunch. Well, the very next stop was Regent Street, where we found a bonus Dream Jar:


And had a photo of such tired children that I swear passers by thought this was some bizarre form of begging:


I wasn’t mentally ready for our Regent Street shop stop though, so we went for lunch just off (Great) Marlborough Street. As everyone knows, the oranges are pretty lame-ass in real life even though they’re dynamite in the game. So I’d marked them as rest stops of a sort though I hadn’t quite decided where we’d have lunch.


Hipster McDonalds turned out to be the answer. Also known as Five Guys. We were in there for a full hour and it was excellent hipster fast food. You queue up to order, go to fill your drink and then collect your order from another counter. It all moved pretty swiftly, was inexpensive and you can choose any toppings for your burger for free! They also have an astounding selection of soft drinks from the machine, including a strawberry Fanta Still that the kids conceded to drink (they don’t do fizzy drinks) and unlimited refills. The burgers and fries were delicious, they had crayons for the kids and they didn’t try to chuck us out when Eva took a full hour to eat half a cup of chips. I would definitely recommend it.


But I feel like I’ve talked enough for this post. Leave us covered in salt and grease and yumminess and rejoin us in Part 2 where we’ll visit some more disappointing oranges, find a toilet on a non-existent floor and do some spontaneous water play…

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