London Loves

London has been in the news way too much recently, for all the wrong reasons. So I wanted to make a space where we celebrate the London we know- not the one that’s full of tragedy and police tape. Every … Continue reading

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Science Museum – 20/11/21

Ah Science Museum – it’s been a long time. With all the Covid-safe complications and just being dog-tired from getting back into the swing of life we’ve been mainly spending our Saturdays mooching around HP rather than going on grand days out. I mean, we did go to B&Q last week but that’s as exciting as it’s got.

This week was different though. We had Yorkshire folk staying, who were wide-eyed at the prospect of doing some London things in That There London. We got them to do all the booking – cause pre-booking is essential for the big museums at the weekend nowadays – and, even though they’d booked early, the Wonderlab slots were all sold out. Still, there would be plenty of other bits of the museum to explore.

We had a specific timeslot for arrival and South Kensington tube is currently closed for the Piccadilly line so I wasn’t sure how it would all work. Naturally, we were about half an hour early so just dawdled from the tube and the nice lady on the queue barrier let us in when we still had around 10 minutes to go, technically. Once we were through the doors we had to scan our e-tickets at some new scanning stations but other than that, everything was pretty much normal. Of course, we were strongly advised to wear masks and there were some exhibits that were closed because of distancing but yknow, as normal as possible under the circumstances.

We didn’t have much of a plan, except that we were booked onto the Force Typhoon at 3 o clock. Eva was keen to go and see the Space bit first, so we started wandering through the ground floor to see what was new in space.

Well, this was new…I think. I can’t remember when we last visited, pre-lockdown but I think it may have been early on in 2019.  And Tim Peake’s Soyuz spacecraft arrived in the museum in the May of the same year. There was an interactive screen next to it where you can look around a virtual interior of the craft and, of course, both kids wanted to use it at once despite there being a window they could look into to see much the same thing. We also had a look at some of the old favourites, like the hologram planet:

This piece of narrative took on new meaning post-lockdown though:

The same faces for months on end? Imagine that!

We were planning to go to Pattern Pod but there was a queue and, as it transpired, both my children are way too old for it anyway because it’s only for Under 8s. I’m not sure there was an official age limit before but I definitely thought Roo was in danger of trampling the small ones even a couple of years ago so it seemed fair enough. There is a bit of a gap for older kids though, given that Wonderlab sells out so quickly. Maybe the interactive exhibits like “Who Am I?” would fill that gap?

The answer is yes, partly. As we walked in the large screen was showing some kind of system error and there were a number of exhibits that were closed. But the ones that were on and working were good. Eva did a game where droids tried to capture human emotions:

And Reuben thought that these human expressions were all variations on “having a dump”:

From there, we went down and back up to the new Medicine galleries. I’d seen some pretty, flower-like things from the ground floor that, of course, turned out to be some kind of sinister representation of how disease spreads.

I’d noticed the old Pandemic section next to the Pattern Pod had disappeared, which made me think it had been quietly shuffled away when pandemics became less like a fun computer game and more like something that took over our entire lives. I was wrong though – the pandemic game has just been moved upstairs into the new section so, if you’re not already tired of predicting how a pandemic can infect an entire city, you can still play the computer game version.

There are interactive bits in the next gallery as well. Reuben spent some time putting this poor man’s organs back in entirely the wrong places, giving him a liver as a hat and a pair of lungs as a pair of trousers. What has happened to the British educational system?

The medicine galleries were a bit much for the squeamish girl but she liked the communications gallery better. She’s keen on all things internet and phone-based and there was a game where you had to plan where to put phone masts in order to gain the best coverage. Again, Reuben didn’t exactly take the challenge seriously and put all his masts in the same place, to ensure really good coverage for that one guy. Hopefully not the same guy who’s currently wearing his lungs as a pair of slacks.

 

I think we swooped by the Mathematics Gallery at some point as well but the kids were flagging at that point so I think we just had a bit of a sit down next to this things and didn’t really look at any of the exhibits:

We were booked onto Typhoon Force at 3 so had to rush through the flight gallery in order to be there on time. We’d often walked past these simulators on the way to Wonderlab but had never tried one before. Eva seemed a bit nervous just before it started but she declared it to be “so much fun” as she came out. It’s not as nauseau-inducing as I’d feared it might be and was actually quite a gentle swoop over the Lake District and some unnamed mountains in Wales. It lasted six minutes which was about right.

After that though, we were well ready for refreshments and we had the usual confusion at Shack Bar about where to queue and where to stand while waiting. Plus the added complications of masks and perspex screens. It took a few sprints to the table at the far end of the cafe area before everyone had what they needed and I did get melting ice cream all over my hand. But then my brother-in-law got ice cream all over his mask because he forgot he might need to take it off before eating. So I win. Plus I had a coffee and a millionaire’s shortbread, so I was definitely winning.

It was almost time to start heading home but we had a few more places to check out first. We had dashed through Flight in the manner of people who had a genuine flight to catch (chance would be a fine thing!) so it was nice to walk back through in more of a relaxed manner and view the planes from the walkway. Also, if I’d been so inclined, I could really have hocked a loogie from up here. Lucky Nathan was wearing his hat:

 

(Also don’t hock loogies. It’s not Covid-secure)

There was also a plane with a cut out to the cockpit, that the kids liked:

From Flight, we could walk across the top to “Engineer Your Future”, which I thought might be new but a quick google suggests it’s been there since 2014. I guess we’ve just never got to the top-west corner of the museum before. It was very interactive, with games like Rugged Rovers:

I downloaded the app and tried to connect it to the big screen but it wasn’t working. There seemed to be a few bits that were similarly glitchy. We couldn’t make this one do anything:

But there were lots of other fun things, like a game where you had to design a baggage sorting system for an aeroplane. Spoiler: no baggage got sorted on my watch.

We popped downstairs to Atmosphere, which I don’t remember much of except for this photo opportunity:

I think I was a bit tired by that point. Roo wanted to go back to “Who Am I?” and this time, the interactive screen as we walked in was working:

This is pretty much what happens when you ask Reuben to stand still for a photo. Which is how the Christmas card shot we later took outside the NHM was a bit blurry:

On the way out of the museum, we stopped at the gift shop. Eva was tempted to buy a Laika space dog but I’m glad she didn’t because that might have made me sad every time I looked at her. So instead, she spent £12 of her own money on rocks. Obviously.

We were aiming to pull off the Gloucester Road fast food hack, which has the advantage of walking past a very pretty and Christmassy NHM. But my beloved hack didn’t go so well this time. The ordering machines were broken and let us put the full family order in (twice!) before bleeping out and telling us to go and order from a real person. More masks, more confusion. There was no napkins and – hopefully unconnected – no loo roll in the toilets. Only one of the drinks machines worked and it didn’t have any of the fun flavoured Sprites or Cokes, just normal Coke and orange Fanta. But we got the kids fed, which was verging on urgent by 6PM, considering their last meal had been a 10:30 brunch.

And we also got to spend a bit of time contemplating the underside of the emergency staircase at Gloucester Road tube. Don’t ask why.

So covid-era Science Museum – a few bits missing here and there but still fun. Don’t forget to pre-book. More information here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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“We Are Gonna Be Okay” – 23/10/21

Image taken from E33 Facebook page – copyright E33 Dance Company

As we came out of lockdown restrictions over the summer, always with an eye to possibly going back into them by November, there was a bit of a challenge in the arts sector as to how to reflect and deal with all that’s gone on over the last two years and how we deal with it. I wrote a few weeks back about “The Wishing Tree”, which was the Little Angel interpretation of post lockdown optimism. Tonight I saw a different interpretation but, as we edge closer to November and with rising case numbers, it feels slightly bittersweet that the optimistic summer months when these shows were conceived may soon be a fond memory.

But for now, we’re allowed to leave the house and do fun stuff so, to an extent, I’m enjoying it while I can.

And top of my list of things to do while we can was to try out the new branch of the Northern line! If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you might have noticed that I’m a bit of a tube geek and the Northern line extension is particularly exciting for me, seeing as we were Kennington residents for seven years. I’m glad we left not long after they put a giant hole into Kennington Park in order to facilitate that extension tho.

I’ve gotta say that Kennington station has not changed much. It was a smooth cross-platform change from the southbound Bank branch to the new bit, which I guess is just the end of the Charing Cross branch now? That’s gonna take some mental adjustment. At which point do we start admitting that the Northern Line isn’t really one line at all but two, bound loosely together at Kennington, Euston and Camden Town?

Anyway, the end of the Charing Cross branch seems pretty infrequently served, as three of the four trains on the board terminated at Kennington. We only had to.wait a few minutes but the friends I was with told me they had to wait a full 13 minutes on the way back.

Once we were aboard, we were slightly struggling to see what was new. The tunnels looked grimy as ever and the trains haven’t changed.

But, oh.  THIS was new:

And, more to the point of the trip, THIS:

It’s very chrome-y and shiny, much in the style of the newer Jubilee line stations. It had a huge line of ticket gates – Kennington might have six times as many trains as Battersea Power Station Station but Battersea Power Station Station probably had six times as many ticket gates as Kennington’s three. Plus some very shiny escalators in place of Kennington’s very irritable lift. And a cool colour changing light thing. Ooh space agey!

OK, so let’s get to the point of the post. I was in Battersea to see a dance show called “We Are Gonna Be Okay” by E33 Dance Company. We were there primarily to support a friend from church, who was both dancing and choreographing for the show, and honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Last time we’d been to see a friend from church in a contemporary dance show, I’d enjoyed it but also not quite known what was going on. I just assumed that I’m not high brow enough to really understand interpretive dance

As it happens, this show was pretty accessible, even for someone like me. The first piece was to “The Greatest Show”, which is a crowd-pleasing start, and I had to do my best not to sing along. Then the director of the company, Rachel Riveros, introduced the individual dancers and explained a bit about the company and where they came from. Then came the first real indicator of All That Stuff Last Year – a film called The Peace Project, filmed by individual dancers in lockdown. It might have been at this point that I first noticed my friend  – who I’ll call Bella for now – wiping away a tear or two. The first time but not the last.

There was a short interview with some of the kids from the classes that E33 run at their partner organisation Providence House and then a piece called “Ahava”, which was choreographed by one of the young people from the E33 mentoring programme. It was really lovely to see how the company connected with inspired kids of different ages and backgrounds. Honor Dixon, the 16-year-old choreographer of “Ahava”, introduced her piece and, while I know nothing about choreography, it was pretty amazing work for someone that age. I believe the inspiration might have been from Ezra:8 in the Bible but I’ll admit that Ezra is not the most well-read bit of my Bible so I was happy to follow Honor’s suggestion and not try to follow the narrative too much but just enjoy it. This was followed (I think) by one of the Providence House singers – Jessica – performing “You Gotta Be”, accompanied by the Providence House kids as backing dancers.

By now, we were taking bets on when Bella would cry next and the fourth piece – “Beloved” -was a sure thing. The narrative on the programme says “Knowing who you are and that you’re unconditionally loved”. It was a very moving song and a beautiful dance to go alongside it. I too might have been welling up by the end but hey, I’ve denied being an easy crier.

I full on cried during the next bit as Rachel Riveros came back to share the inspiration behind the last dance before the interval. It was titled “You’re Gonna be OK”, which also provided the title for the show. She shared a very honest and raw account of her recent miscarriage and how she struggled to find God in the midst of it. Blimey, I’m welling up just writing this. I always find it emotional to hear stories of baby loss and, as she talked about looking out at the view from the top of St Thomas’ Hospital I could picture exactly where she meant. I never lost a baby in that hospital but we did have some highs and lows on that maternity ward, especially in the very first days after Roo was born. So that was a real emotional connection for me. We’d each been given an electric candle on our seats as we came in and, halfway through the piece, Rachel was handed a candle by her son and, right on cue, we all lit our candles too. See, you’re crying just reading this aren’t you? After all the darkness of the last few years, the wave of light was a little bit of hope and I think we all need that. I also don’t think it was a coincidence that, just a week after Baby Loss Awareness Week, we were lighting candles to tell a bereaved mother “You’re Gonna Be OK”.

Phew, I needed a quick break after all that emotional labour and luckily it was the interval next. By the way, I don’t have any pictures of the show as there was no photography allowed but I’m hoping to get my hands on the press photos soon so you can see some of the things I’m talking about and not just rely on my vague descriptions.

The first piece after the interval was choreographed by the friend we’d come to see so, of course, we all thought it was amazing. It was called “Endurance” and was inspired by his experience of arriving in London this time last year, just before a grim winter of lockdowns. I think Bella might have cried again at this point. After that was a film called “When We Whistle”, which was shot just by the Thames during the second lockdown. You can watch it here though be warned – when I just played a clip, Eva wanted to know what the “chicken sounds” were.

I must have been getting tired by the end because I don’t remember too much about the last three pieces – I know that “Rescue” was choreographed by Randall Flinn, a friend of the company, and that the music for “Father’s Song” was considered an unusual choice because the rhythm was quite slight for dancing. It was a beautiful song though, and made a fitting finale. There was also a lively dance to house music, called “Onwards” just before the end, performed by the second company.

All together, the show was a rich emotional journey  – almost exhausting at times but also uplifting and reassuring. E33 are hoping to take the show on tour soon so make sure you go and check it out. More information here.

Image taken from E33 Facebook page – copyright E33 Dance Company

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A Fairly Ordinary October

I realise I haven’t blogged for a while and now am doing the cardinal sin of starting a blog post by apologising about not blogging for a while. So I apologise and I apologise for the apologising. Truth is, we’ve been busy but not doing anything especially bloggable. It’s amazing how tiring it is, just doing the ordinary life that we used to do all the time. School, church, office, choir…all these things are good but somehow take more effort than they used to pre-pandemic. It’s nice to be back wandering about The City during the week but come the weekend, we’re generally too tired to go out anywhere much.

 

Roo and I did go out today tho, to get the boy jabbed at Tommy’s. It wasn’t as gloriously sunny as it was for both my jabs but the worst of the torrential rain was while we were inside the tent. By the time we were back out by the London Eye, it was edging towards sunnyish.

We went to Giraffe for lunch, and the boy had a sticky toffee pudding that was a marked improvement on Maggie’s (sorry Maggie)

And saw a giant teapot on top of the Hayward Gallery:

Also, excitingly, we almost got a chance to go on the secret train when the Vic line stalled for ages at Highbury & Islington. We ended up getting back on the Vic line because it was seven minutes till the secret train and the Vic line decided it was ready to go. But it is always thrilling to wander along those time-capsule platforms:

It doesn’t look like we’ve just stepped through a passage from a full train of people does it? It always feels like we’ve gone through a weird portal.

Other than that, we haven’t been up to much. Reuben went to his first ever gig last Sunday – Rend Collective at Hammersmith Apollo. A friend and I hung out at a riverside pub just around the corner, in a bit of Hammersmith that is far more scenic than either the flyover or the gyratory:

 

And on the same day, Eva went to Kew Gardens, which would have been highly bloggable if I’d gone with her. Instead, I was at a partners’ meeting at church, debating the finer points of building maintenance and pension plans. Still, she had a lovely time and apparently spent a long time gazing up at this sculpture and saying “I can’t believe how incredibly beautiful it is”

So I guess Kew is one that she might want to revisit and maybe she’ll take the blogger along for the ride this time. Till then, it’s back to church choir admin for your host. More adventures coming soon!

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“The Wishing Tree” at Little Angel Theatre Studio – 11/09/21

With the restrictions lifting, we were well overdue a visit to Little Angel Theatre. Luckily, we were only halfway there when I realised that this production was at Little Angel Studio, not the theatre itself. Unluckily, I realised this after I’d dropped my phone and shattered the glass so I had to figure out the route through a plastic bag that formerly held my mask and had been hastily repurposed as a makeshift screen cover. Arsenal were playing at home so our route via Highbury and Islington was a little slow but we made it to the show almost exactly on time.

The-Wishing-Tree-performed-by-Chris-Nayak-and-Nadia-Shash.-Photo-by-Ellie-Kurttz

“The Wishing Tree” is the story of Ben, an 8-year-old boy who has moved to a new estate in Islington, far away from his friends and family. He explores the estate and finds himself on a quest to help a tree sprite called Green. It’s a simple and charming story about overcoming loneliness and the voices of real Islington school children are heard, talking about their worries and wishes. There are two performers and, of course, a cast of puppets to tell the story.

The-Wishing-Tree-performed-by-Chris-Nayak-and-Nadia-Shash.-Photo-by-Ellie-Kurttz

I’m always keeping half an eye on Eva during live shows as she gets easily overwhelmed by the emotion involved. And the story was a bit emotional at the start when Ben was missing his old life so much. But she seemed OK, which means that this show is probably fine for even the most sensitive children. There are lots of light moments during the story -like when Ben meets the conker-shaped sprite of the Tree of Play – to keep the kids engaged and smiling. There was a bit of a darker moment with the eyeless sprite of the Tree of Seeing but Eva coped fine with that and the next sprite – a mango-obsessed parrot had her laughing and also “hungry for mango”. Weren’t we all?

The-Wishing-Tree-performed-by-Chris-Nayak-and-Nadia-Shash.-Photo-by-Ellie-Kurttz

Compared to some of the shows in the main theatre, this was a bit simpler using just the one set although the performers and puppets ducked in, out and around it. But the story – written by Joseph Coelho – touched on some very big themes, which might well resonate with the children who have been through such a traumatic couple of years with Covid. Who doesn’t identify with feelings of not knowing your place in the world or how to fill your time while your parents are on work calls? The real-life voices of kids added to the relatability of the piece – these children worried about climate change and not being able to see their grandparents. In a way, they spoke for all the children who’ve had to carry such a lot of anxiety around with them during These Times.

The-Wishing-Tree-performed-by-Chris-Nayak-and-Nadia-Shash.-Photo-by-Ellie-Kurttz

But as I mentioned previously, the show never verged too far into darkness and emotional turmoil. There was enough humour and fun to reassure any kids watching that, even through the darker times, there was still light and colour and optimism. The ribbons of the rebuilt wishing tree at the end very much symbolised this hope – that there was a better future ahead and that kids could make wishes and believe that there could come true.

So, pretty much the perfect show for these times, as we slowly emerge from Covid and try to make sense of the world around us. Challenging in parts, but reassuring too and imbued with a real warmth and humanity.

And Eva emerged smiling from the theatre, which is a real win. Of course, it might have been the prospect of buying a fox glove puppet on the way out that was making her smile too:

Or maybe the prospect of yummy ice cream at Udderlicious on Upper Street:

But either way, it was a lovely day out for me and the girl. And here’s hoping there will be many more theatre trips to come….

Disclaimer: I received free tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own

“The Wishing Tree” runs at Little Angel Studios until 26th September. For tickets and more info, click here

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Britannia Leisure Centre – 03/09/21

 

It’s pretty much the end of the summer holidays! Eva went back to school today, which meant Roo and I had a day to do something fun together without her. I was on annual leave for the latter half of this week and used yesterday’s day to comb Westfield for PE kit (I’m not blogging about that one. It’s too painful) so I wanted today to be actual fun, rather than just survival. Reuben’s only request was to go swimming and, by chance, a message from a friend on a church WhatsApp group reminded me that we had not yet checked out the new Jewel of Hackney – the state of the art Britannia Leisure Centre.

When I say Hackney, I mean the Borough of Hackney. Not that this sparkly new swimming pool is somewhere conveniently near Hackney Downs or anywhere else easy to get to from Chingford. In fact, it’s tucked right into the south-west corner of the borough, near the Islington border but again, not so near to church that we could just take a variation on our usual route there. The nearest station is Hoxton but that’s not particularly handily connected so I made the bold decision to just walk it from Liverpool Street and stop for brunch somewhere along the way. Which all worked fine, mainly because the boy wasn’t paying much attention to how far we’d walked and instead was busy walking me through a hypothetical battle for global supremacy between vampires and zombies. The vampires would win.

Anyway, we saw some pretty things along the way, like this tunnel of lights underneath Broadgate Circus:

The walk between Liverpool Street and our brunch spot took about 20 mins and was around a mile or so, which means it wasn’t a totally crazy idea with a long-legged boy. I’d spent a while researching brunch spots in the Hoxton and Shoreditch areas because a lot of the options were bound to be way too hipster for the likes of us. Anywhere that threatened to deconstruct a fry up was struck off the list but Muzzy’s Cafe on Pitchfield Street seemed like a likely candidate.

And it did indeed tick all the boxes! At £5.45, the “Little English” breakfast was good value and the bacon was exactly the right level of crispiness. The sausage was properly yummy too. Roo had the Sunshine smoothie and I had the fresh orange juice, both of which were good, and it was all very unrushed and unpretentious….which are rare traits in Hoxton bruncheries. My food photography has not improved, but you get the gist.

Now everyone knows you are not meant to eat directly before swimming because of your stomach falling out or piranhas or somesuch so it was lucky that we had almost an hour to kill between brunch and our booked swim slot at 12:30. I say “lucky”, I mean I planned it this way. Didn’t stop Reuben thinking I’d epically failed when I said we had to hang around Shoreditch Park for 45 minutes before we’d be allowed in. But there’s a substantially sized playground there, so he managed to occupy himself for that fallow time. It looks like it’s been quite newly developed, with challenging climbing apparatus and a “natural” play area.

The park also has a vast stretch of grass, which had plenty of dogs for us to coo over. And they’re well looked after, with these Pawstations:

So onto the point of our visit – the new pool. As with all Better centres, the facilities are good but the admin can sometimes be challenging. We’d prebooked but when we got there, there was quite a queue at Reception and someone telling us to just scan the barcode to go through the gates. That didn’t work, so we asked someone else who said that we needed a wristband for swimming, so had to join the queue. Which was all fine, but a sign or two with instructions would not have gone amiss.

The changing village is fairly large although I struggled to find a cubicle when we got out. Everything was pretty clean, except for something unsightly in the loos but there was a cleaner on hand to deal with that. Loads of available lockers and piping hot showers…so far, so good.

And then there’s the flume! At the point of showering, there’s the option to turn right for the Main Pool and Training Pool or left for “Leisure Water”. We figured that’s where the flume would be, so took the left option assuming we could come back to the Main Pool later. That assumption turned out to be wrong, and we were told that once we’d picked the flume side, we had to stay there. Again, it’s that Better level of admin where you find out rules as you’re dripping wet by the side of a pool as opposed to at the point of booking. No signs anywhere mentioned that it was only one or the other and I’m sure I read the Attendance Rules when I booked in case of these kind of shenanigans. Looking at the site again, I think because I clicked through from the picture of the slide it only gave me the option of the Leisure Pool booking but, as ever, booking with Better is all very confusing. There is a swimming pool on the Leisure side but it’s designed for toddlers so not really somewhere a 12-year-old can swim without bumping into a tiny one. At the same time, very few 12-year-olds would want to swim up and down the lanes on the other side without giving the flume a go. So it’s tricky if you fancy a bit of sliding and a bit of swimming. But I’m clarifying the rules here so that you read them before you’re on that poolside. To be fair to the lifeguard, she did say something about how he could do the swim test but he’d wandered off by then so we just spent all our time on the Leisure side, probably annoying anyone with a baby or toddler. Sorry about that.

But enough negativity! Because the actual Leisure pool was amazing. I only went down the flume once before concluding it was a young woman’s game but Reuben went down five times. It’s not quite like any other flume I’ve ever been on before. There are lights, sounds and images inside the flume and one bit in particular makes you feel like you’re going through a portal into another dimension. It’s like the opening sequence to Doctor Who but with a better budget and, sadly, no David Tennant.

While Roo repeatedly scampered up the steps to the flume, I relaxed in the toddler pool underneath it. There’s a tiled seat built into one end, with jets of water so it gives the effect of an underwater jacuzzi-sofa. Good for soothing those muscles after our long walk. There are also fountains of water on each side of the pool, which are fun to swim under, and a curious area that is very shallow and acts a bit like a shelf with a couple of inches of water above it. I’m guessing that might be for disabled access but I have no idea and there’s no explanation on the website.

There’s also a paddling pool for the very littlies, with lots of water play activities, and an area called Splash Pad, which had larger scale water jets and showers and a small slide. I don’t think Roo was meant to be in that bit but he did have a sneaky play with the water buckets just so he could tip a load of water into my face. Charming child. The showers that come off the Splash Pad are very hard – also good for aching muscles – and every so often, the giant bucket on the top tips over and we all get drenched. It’s fun.

We left after 45 minutes because I was paranoid about being late for school pick up on the first day back. Roo had to be frogmarched away from all the fun stuff and because we left while the next session of people were getting ready to go in, it was a bit of a challenge finding a cubicle each. So probably best to just use your full hour and then it’ll all work more smoothly.

On the way out, we grabbed a coffee and a Coke and a couple of shortbreads from the cafe, which has two counters and one of them is handily near the entrance to the changing village. We decided to get the bus back to Liverpool Street – or at least as far as Moorgate – so hopped on a 21 but my plan for a leisurely trip back was scuppered when the driver announced the bus was on diversion and wouldn’t be going to Moorgate. So we got out on the wrong side of Finsbury Square and had a bit of a schlep back to Liverpool Street while I tried to convince Reuben that I didn’t need to check Google Maps because I was 91% sure where we going and look, there’s that bit of wall where I once saw something unsightly in a Wasabi box.

Anyway, we made it back and it turns out that Liverpool Street has a whole new extra shopping mall bolted onto its western end nowadays. We didn’t have time to properly see what was there but there’s a list of shops here if you’re interested. At a glance, no sign of that school-uniform-and-teacher-gifts shop us City mothers so desperately need though.

So, a lovely day out with my boy and really excited to find a fun new pool. He definitely wants to go back, we definitely need to work on our route to get there. And Better definitely need to work on their signage. But, in the words of Loki and often quoted by Reuben, what did you expect?

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Kidwelly Castle – 19/08/21

On our fourth day in Llanelli, the weather was looking threatening. After two days on the the beach under ambiguous skies, it was time to find an activity that might withstand a bit of rain. And given we were in Wales, what better than a visit to a castle? I do understand that most castles don’t have roofs and so aren’t really weather-proof at all but the logic was that it would be better than sitting on wet sand  At least we could keep moving.

There are a few castles to choose from but there was another part to my plan. While we’d been sitting on Llanelli Beach, I’d spotted a tiny train that went right along the coastline and for some reason I really wanted to have a trip on it. We could have driven to Kidwelly but we had done a lot of driving and the tiny train would take us there too. It would be an adventure!

The first thing I noticed on our adventure was a level crossing, which made us feel very at home because it’s just like the one in Highams Park. The next thing I noticed was that we were wayyyyy too early for our train. I’d imagined that leaving the apartment would take longer than it did and I’d also imagined that the walk would take longer too. Trains only run every couple of hours so it was very important to me that we didn’t miss it. Which meant, almost inevitably, that we were half an hour early for the train. As we sat on the platform and waited, an announcement told us that the Cardiff Central train had been cancelled. Which was fine, cause that was in the opposite direction to Kidwelly, but it did make me wonder whether ours would be cancelled too. It wasn’t, but it was around 15 minutes late. So we were sitting on Platfform Un of Llanelli station for 45 minutes, all told. My kids were unimpressed by this adventure so far.

But you know what? The tiny train was cool! It went so close to the edge of the coast that it felt like we were about to tip into the sea.

It’s entirely possible that I was still the only one enjoying this adventure. But they’d be fine once we got off the train in the middle of nowhere, right?

Ah no, more complaining ensued. What was not fun about wandering around a small Welsh town in search of a castle?

Luckily, we found a playground where we stopped for a while so the children could rest their walking legs and let their playing legs take over.

There was an interesting looking sensory garden there but we didn’t have time to explore. The train back was at a very specific time and we still had a castle to find and walk around.

Luckily, everything in Kidwelly was helpfully labelled, so, having walked down Station Road away from the station, we used Bridge Street to cross the river and then Castle Street was right there on our right.  And there was a castle!

I didn’t realise at the time but it was the castle from the first scene of Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I think we were talking about the Holy Grail as we wandered around but it didn’t occur to me that we were in an actual filming location. If it had, we definitely would have had more conversations about swallows from the parapets.

But we did walk the parapets, and the kids saw off any invaders with their light sabre and imaginary arrows:

Nathan and Roo also went to the top of one of the towers but Eva and I wussed out because of the very tight spiral staircase. We got about halfway up and then aborted but the boys made it all the way:

Eva and I also weren’t super keen on the dungeons but Roo and Nathan had a look around the Slytherin dormitories:

Roo’s favourite thing seemed to be folding himself into small spaces that used to be ovens or fireplaces:

Although he also enjoyed the throne room:

And a chance to pose with real armour:

Eva also liked that bit:

We spent around an hour wandering about, with an eye always on that train back that we needed to not miss. We saw some very Good Dogs and stopped on the benches to eat Pringles and hobnobs. Despite my misgivings about the weather, we were actually super lucky and the rain held off. It even occasionally tipped over into “sunshiney”.

There’s a lot to explore at Kidwelly and we could have stayed longer but I think we covered the main bits. We could have used a bit more time to stop and read everything but most of the time we were chasing the kids anyway. I’ve always been slightly sceptical about castle visits ever since a very disappointing childhood visit to a mott and bailey castle, which was all mott and no bailey. In other words, it was just a hill with a sign on it. So it’s always good to find a castle that still has walls and towers and ovens that you can pop the firstborn into.

We left with plenty of time before the train and I was surprised to find out it was a request stop where you had to flag down the train, Railway Children style. We didn’t have any red petticoats but I considered using Nathan’s red t-shirt instead. Luckily, some local people turned up and we had to assume they knew what to do and it wouldn’t involve any spontaneous flag-fashioning,

Happily, the train turned up only a few minutes late and stopped to let us on before delivering us back to Llanelli 12 minutes later. I call that a successful adventure. And the family sort of agree….I think.

 

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“The Prince of Egypt” at Dominion Theatre – 26/08/21

LtoR Christine Allado (Tzipporah), Luke Brady (Moses) & Alexia Khadime (Miriam) in The Prince Of Egypt, by Matt Crockett ©DWA LLC.

I interrupt the series of “What I did on my holidays” to bring you a review of something properly exciting. We went to a West End show! For the first time in a very long time, the doors of the theatres are open and we were there to see “The Prince of Egypt” at the Dominion Theatre. Now, I should probably confess that I’ve never seen the film, unlike the people behind me who were threatening to sing along with all the songs, but I’m pretty familiar with the story.  40 years of recounting it at length at Passover have installed it fairly firmly in my brain. After all, the story of the Exodus is important to both Jews and Christians and our family – as Jewish Christians – have heard it from both points of view. But this was the first time we were witnessing it being brought to life in this way, full of brutality but also humanity.

And it’s pretty brutal to start with. Eva was a bit scared of the cracking of the whips as the Hebrews built the pyramids and she hid her face when the Hebrew babies were being killed. But it soon takes on a far more tender tone, as baby Moses is rescued by Queen Tuya in a beautiful scene that sees the company take on the form of the River Nile, rolling Moses’ basket in Tuya’s arms and his new destiny. I should say at this point that the age rating for the show is 7+ and children far younger than Eva (9) were coping just fine with the slavery scene. But if you do have a particularly sensitive one, it might be worth prepping them that there is some initial peril and suffering but that it’s pretty essential for the story.

So Moses is rescued, and grows up as a brother to the heir to the throne, Rameses. The relationship between the brothers is very much the core of the story and gives it its heart.  From carefree pranksters riding their chariots through the marketplace (“Faster”) to grown men burdened by unbearable responsibility, they drift apart, come back together and are violently wrenched apart again.  Luke Brady (Moses) and Liam Tamne (Ramses) are really convincing as brothers who are genetically different yet bonded by something that’s hard to break, even in the face of war and plagues.

The Prince Of Egypt_Photo by Matt Crockett_27756_RT.©DWA LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

If you’re a Bible purist, you might wonder where some of this source material comes from but it’s probably best not to be a purist about this and just enjoy it as a piece of entertainment. The story deviates a few times – especially the ending – but it’s best not to overthink. Because as a piece of entertainment, it is incredibly entertaining – the songs are spectacular and the effects on stage breath-taking at times. There were audible gasps during the Red Sea scene.  The group dances are full of energy, especially when Moses is dancing with the Midianites towards the end of Act 1. I think that was Eva’s favourite scene as it was a bit of light relief after some of the heavier themes of the first act. And it was led by Clive Rowe who, as the kids know, has performed with my old choir a few times so I have shared a stage with Jethro. True fact.

The second half number “Simcha” was also a highlight, as the Hebrews celebrated what they thought would be their route to freedom. There was such passion in their voices and dances that it was all the more crushing when that route to freedom was crushed. But that led to the Plagues sequence, which was one of the most spectacular parts of the whole show. The Nile turned to blood, fire rained down and the plague of boils was so realistic it was hard to look at. I won’t spoiler it by telling you all the details but it was an immense sensory experience, especially after being away from live theatre for all those months. At the performance we were at, the composer Stephen Schwartz and writer Philip LaZebnik were in the audience and came up to speak at the end. I think they spoke for us all when they said how much they’d missed this and how emotional it was to see the show brought to life. Even tough guy Hotep looked like he had a little tear in his eye.

So, I would definitely recommend this show as a summer treat for older kids. It’s dramatic, poignant and often very funny – you will go through the full gamut of emotions while watching. And “The Prince of Egypt” is taking part in the extended Kids Week 2021 so there are bargains to be had for applicable shows. More details here

I would say that *extremely* sensitive children may find some of the scenes hard to deal with  – the standard disclaimer for the show warns that “flashing lights (photosensitivity), haze, smoke, pyrotechnics, live flame and the portrayal of violence are featured on stage and loud sound effects can be heard throughout the auditorium”. So do make a judgement call based on your own child’s capacity to cope…but it is a very rewarding experience. It’s light on the romance elements, which make it good for kids like Reuben who like their musicals full of action, less full of lovey-dovey stuff. And very much one that the adults can enjoy too. It’s a powerful way to bring such a well-known story to life, full of drama, righteous anger but a lot of heart too.

Disclaimer:  I received complimentary tickets in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own. For tickets and information, click here

The Prince Of Egypt_Photo by Matt Crockett_27110_RT4_©DWA LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED

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Pembrey Country Park – 18/08/21

I’ve skipped ahead a bit in our holiday blogging because you don’t *actually* want to know about every trip to the chip shop and fight over Netflix, do you? But here we were, in a very nice apartment in Llanelli with a manmade lake on one side, that was lovely for swimming, and an estuary-beach the other side that was only a beach for a couple of hours a day. There was a lot of wet sand most of the time but the actual water was pretty far out. That’s why the lake was my preferred swimming spot. This is me, in the red hat, though you only have my word for it.

After a day or so of pootling around lake and estuary-beach, we decided to go for a Proper Day Out at Pembrey Country Park. I packed sandwiches and everything. It was only a few miles away as the crow flies but the crows weren’t flying that day, so it was about a 20 minute drive. The country park was free to get into but we had to pay for parking in advance, which was £6 for the day. There were paystations around the park but it seemed easier to just do it online before we went. I also booked bike hire for me and Roo online and we needed to pick the bikes up at 12:30. So far, so smooth.

We parked somewhere in the middle of the park, near the crazy golf, and set off towards the Ski and Adventure Centre, where we’d be picking the bikes up from in an hour or so. I lose my bearings very easily in The Countryside and this was no exception. I thought we could just amble through the forest but there didn’t seem to be many paths in the right direction so we wandered along a road that didn’t have any pavements. That road went on for a long way, past several signs to the beach, and the children started to complain.

So we took a sharp left into some grassy bit of land and tried to find a path. At one point, we found a spooky tunnel but it was fenced off and didn’t go anywhere:

And then we found these chainy-beacons, which are apparently for some kind of disc-golf. I don’t know exactly what disc golf is but there were signs around warning us of low-flying discs so I imagine it involves flinging some discs at these chain things?

It took us a while but eventually we spotted a ski slope in the distance, which we assumed belonged to the Ski and Adventure Centre. We were right! We had found civilisation and there were toilets and the promise of ice cream later. I was very relieved.

We still had a while to go before picking up the bikes so we sat down to have a picnic in a pine needle-strewn clearing.

I’ll skim over the bit where we lost Eva because none of us want to relive that. But we found a child who resembled her, so I think we got her back. And it used up a bit of time before the bike pick up.

The bike pick up was a bit protracted but I didn’t mind too much because we had them for two hours and I wasn’t sure I could cope with two full hours on a bike. Procrastination was good. I last cycled in  September 2010, which is another experience I don’t particularly want to relive. But as a kid I did enjoy cycling and this would be better than Waterloo Bridge in rush hour….right?

Yes, yes it was. I was a bit wobbly at first and I caused at least one crash with Roo when I lost my nerve on a very narrow path but most of the time, I managed to power two wheels with my two legs. Result! I am still feeling it in my knees, nearly a week later but still… Roo and I did several circuits of foresty paths while Nathan and Eva went on a wander up some hills and found a bicycle that was even bigger than the one I was riding:

Roo also had a go at the BMX track, though the bike he was riding wasn’t designed for it so the bumps were tricky. After a sit down and a drink, we were ready to go again and this time we were aiming for the playground at the other end of the park. Handily, we spotted Nathan and Eva just as we were taking our break so shared our plan with them and, when we set off again, they were in hot pursuit on foot. Well, kinda lukewarm pursuit.

We took a few wrong turns (again) but made a right at the miniature railway, and here we were at the playground! It was also gloriously sunny by this point, in contrast to the slightly grudging grey skies we’d seen while wandering lost on those never-ending roads.

We didn’t have too long to play before having to take the bikes back but that was fine because we also didn’t have anything to chain the bikes up with. So I kinda squatted by the bike racks while the kids played and then Roo and I cycled back over to the Ski centre.

We made great time on the way there but walking back to the playground afterwards, with bike-sore legs, was a bit of a slow trudge. We did find a golf course in the middle of the forest, which Nathan had told me about earlier but I just thought he was confused and meant the crazy golf. No, there is a proper golf course tucked into those trees too. Ski slopes, multiple golf courses, spooky tunnels…this park had it all.

Including a beach! Which I’d almost forgotten about in all the foresty frenzy. It was boiling by this point, so we peeled Reuben off his second round of playgrounding with the promise of an ice cream as we walked back to the car to get our beach stuff.

Of course, as soon as we sat down to eat our ice creams the sun went behind a cloud and a cold wind started to blow. Would this deter us from going to the beach? Nah, don’t be silly.

The beach was very sandy and gorgeous, which made me wish we’d gone a bit earlier when it wasn’t so cold. Roo and I went straight into the sea though, because I’ve never seen the point in hanging around cold beaches when you could be warming up in the water. I have no idea how that works but it does, as long as you’re properly immersed. When Eva wanted me to go back in later, we were just paddling and not swimming so that bit – in a wet cossie and with a harsh wind blowing – was verging on unpleasantly cold. Half an hour wave jumping with Reuben was perfectly nice and warm tho, as long as we kept moving.

Then Nathan buried Reuben in the sand. Standard.

If we were to go to Pembrey again, I’d probably do everything a bit earlier and book the bikes online a few days in advance so there were more time slots. We probably rushed a bit towards the end and missed the best of the sun to boot. Still, a lovely day out though.

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Bowood House – 15/08/21

We’ve just got back from a holiday in Wales, which I totally intend to blog about at some point. Although I’m quite tired so don’t be surprised if the holiday post goes something like “Wales, sea, fundayzzzzzzz…..”. But I’m determined to at least blog about the first day of our holiday, which wasn’t even in Wales. It was kind of in the right direction though and meant we got to hang out with the Hollies for the day. We’d decided to split the drive to Wales over two days, so had a hotel booked in Swindon for the night. Which left us freeish to explore during the day. We would have been freer if an M4 closure between Slough and Maidenhead hadn’t added some journey time on but M4 closures were a bit of a theme for our time away.

We stopped at Chieveley for coffee on the way down and, even though we’d got past the closed bit of the M4 by then, decided to eschew motorway driving for a more exciting cross-country route between Chieveley and Bowood House. And it definitely was exciting! We drove through the middle of the North Wessex Downs, which was very pretty, and past the grandeur of Marlborough College. Then we saw some properly impressive stuff – the monoliths of Avebury and the prehistoric mound of Silbury Hill -which I totally failed to get any photos of. Well, here’s a photo of a field to compensate:

All of this brought us to Bowood House by lunchtime, which was something of an achievement. We met the Hollies at the Treehouse Cafe for lunch, which is just outside the entrance of the house and grounds. The cafe selection wasn’t huge  – and they’d run out of jacket potatoes – but the staff were lovely and made a salad especially for Holly. I had a vegan cheese toastie, which I’d mainly picked because it had pickled onion in it, and it wasn’t bad considering it was vegan. Even after ten years of eating mainly dairy substitutes, I still haven’t reconciled myself to vegan cheese.

Once we’d eaten, we went through the entrance gate. We’d booked online in advance, so it was pretty easy to get checked in. We assumed the various kids would head straight for the adventure playground but they got very distracted by various climbing trees along the way, one of which had a telegraph pole growing out of it:

Eventually we got to the adventure playground, which had even more opportunities for climbing and some scarily vertical slides. No wonder the playground says “At Your Own Risk”:

The scariest was under a roof so I didn’t even see how steep it was but the ones I could see were extreme enough:

There was play equipment for younger kids too – swings and a trampoline – but it was good to find a playground that was challenging enough for tweens. The full size pirate ship was ace:

And the boat swings were a bit hit too:

We were in the playground for over an hour and only lured them out by promising a trip to the caves. The kids had formed some kind of super-secret spy corps that I can’t tell you about but it did seem to involve ducking, rolling  and hiding all the way through the ornamental gardens and the slope beyond:

It would have been nice to spend a bit more time looking at the ornamental gardens and a bit less time looking for the “stealthy” children but I did get a few photos on the way through. Like this very worried-looking lion:

And a fragile stag that the kids managed not to touch, after only a few warnings:

And a very scenic arch, with some kind of faerie thing hanging around underneath it:

On the other side of the gardens was the aforementioned rolling-down slope, a vast lake and some ha-has, which is where I presume the road in Woolwich gets its name.  If, like me, you didn’t know what a ha-ha was, let me tell you. It’s a ditch with a sunken fence, which is supposed to prevent livestock wandering all over the lawn without spoiling the view from the house. So, now you know.

The house and grounds, with the lake and boathouse and tiny temple, reminded me a lot of Ashburnham, where we’ve spent many a chilly church weekend away. Turns out they had the same landscape gardener   – Capability Brown – so it’s no wonder they’re so similar. I really am bringing on the facts today.

We kinda meandered round the lake until we found the promised caves. I wasn’t sure what to expect but there was a very dark and twisty passageway that went through the rock and the kids had a great time stumbling around in the dark. I refused to go through it on touch alone so used my phone torch to see what was around the corner. Apparently that’s no fun though. Then the kids packed themselves into another rocky nook to have a spy meeting and we enjoyed five minutes of childfree time gazing at the waterfall.

But then, they found us:

It really was very pretty and a bit like being on holiday somewhere that wasn’t Swindon.  We spent a long time scrabbling up rocks and over stepping stones and visiting a little grotto with fossils in the ceiling:

All of which inevitably meant that Eva’s legs “turned to jelly” and she couldn’t possibly walk back to the car. I bribed her along, inch by inch, with some cookie dough bites that Nathan had bought for the tube journey home the previous day before he remembered how hard it was to eat on the tube with a mask on. At one point she attempted to roll down a slope but that was something she did even more slowly than walking. The rest of the kids shot off down the hill and back the other side before she’d rolled a metre.

Somehow, we got back to the playground and there we enjoyed some well-deserved ice creams from the kiosk:

And that gave Eva the strength to finally make it across the highest of high beams:

It was getting late and we still had a little way to drive before we found our bed for the night. We’d booked the Holiday Inn, near Junction 15 of the M4. It wasn’t anything fancy but I’d made the booking halfway through our stint of self-isolation in July and it had seemed the most exciting thing in the world then that we might possibly leave the house and go and stay in Swindon for the night. It even had a swimming pool! So we checked in around 5:30 and, happily, they had timeslots available for us to swim that evening at 7 and again in the morning at 9. It was lovely and refreshing after a warm day of walking around Bowood and the kids were excited, even if they were disappointed at the jacuzzi being over 16s only. You can’t have everything, kids.

Once we were dryish, we had a late (for us) dinner at the Spotted Cow, a few minutes down the road. My instinct was to walk it after so much driving but the walking route seemed to take us over a dual carriageway with no crossing so driving it was. We ordered through the app, which is one of the only good things to come out of the pandemic, and the food arrived very quickly. Cheap, fast and filling food was exactly what we needed and the Spotted Cow certainly delivered that. We were all exhausted by this point, in case you couldn’t guess.

Then we drove back to the hotel for a slightly restless night (I was sharing a room with Eva and her feet do not stay on her side of the room) and then a fairly cheap hotel breakfast. I’m a real tightass when it comes to paying for breakfast in hotels and hadn’t paid for it beforehand because it was £14 per head, which would have been £56 for all of us. But when we checked it, I was told it was £10 per head and kids eat free. On that basis, we were in:

And we fuelled up well for another swim (allowing time for breakfast to settle first, obviously) before setting off on our drive to actual holiday. But more on that later. Maybe. Wales, sea, fundayzzzzzzz…..

 

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Hanging Around the Southbank -14/08/21

Today was a proper old school LWAT kinda day. Not much of a plan but sunshine and family made it a happy day of hanging out. We were meeting CousinZ and her parents and CousinO under the clock at Waterloo. This has been our standard assembly point since the beginning of time – I don’t remember when we first met anyone under that clock but it was probaly at least 30 years ago. Now, apparently, it’s something that everyone has latched onto:

Still, it works so well as a meeting point that I’m happy to share it. And it worked fine today – CousinO, CousinZ, my brother and sister-in-law were all located right on time and we took the level exit out of Waterloo (just behind the clock and next to Costa) to head to the Southbank Centre. We’d met at lunchtime so the first stop was at the food market at the back of the Centre. I didn’t think Roo and Eva would eat anything that was on offer, so I’d packed sandwiches for them but Reuben spotted some giant Polish sausages in baguettes and asked for one of those instead of his sandwich.

Nathan and I had BBQ bowls from the Korean BBQ stall and they were pretty good – I had some kind of sticky chicken on a bed of kimchi rice and allllll the pickled radish. So yummy. I got something beefy for Nathan but don’t exactly remember what. I avoided the super spicy options just to…errr…simplify the day. I won’t elaborate.

We found a bench near the river, using the wheelchair friendly route round the right side of the Southbank Centre (after you come out next to Giraffe, there’s a graduated slope through the middle of the steps to get you up to the river-level). The kids were obviously immediately distracted by the classic Southbank benches, which are now more postbox-red than neon-orange-red, and ran off to climb on them as soon as they’d finished eating. That kept them happy for a bit but once Reuben and Eva started arguing, we moved them swiftly on to the playground proper. On the way, I realised that the South Bank itself looked different to how it used to. Is it just me or has it got a lot leafier of late? I know these trees were always there but were they always so…well…treelike? I’m not complaining, it’s just something different.

The playground worked fine until Roo and Eva started arguing again, at which point Nathan took Reuben off for a round of hipster golf at Between the Bridges. For anyone who hasn’t been to the South Bank lately, that’s the patch of land between the Southbank Centre and the playground that was the Underbelly arena at one point and has had a million names since.

Golf was fairly pricey – £9 for adults and £5 for kids – but kept them occupied for a bit and gave Reuben something fun to do after the disappointment of Free Comic Book Day being postponed again. Nathan didn’t take any pictures, but it was apparently “a bit confusing” and squeezed into a repurposed dodgems arena. When Roo and I popped over there to enquire about availability, a whole crowd of young people were singing “Spice Up Your Life”. It was, as Nathan said, a bit confusing.

Golf aside, we lasted around two and a half hours in the playground with various trips to the M&S Food Hall to get drinks and to the Southbank to use the loos. The centre is open to the public still but seemed weirdly empty. The loos are accessible through the doors on the terrace side and other bits of the centre are roped off. Luckily, it was outdoors weather so that’s where we spent pretty much the whole afternoon. In fact, it was so outdoorsy weather that CousinZ declared she wanted to find a swimming pool to dive into. Now, swimming pools are in short supply in Waterloo (despite the watery name) and my South London knowledge is not what it was, after 7 years in the North and, quite frankly, a year and a half in my lounge. So I googled and found that there was a water feature in Victoria Tower Gardens (I think the playground is actually called Horseferry Playground) and did remember, in the dim recesses of my memory, that I had blogged about a water feature being put in there some time ago. It wasn’t a swimming pool or even a fountain but it was nearby and it would have to do. What’s the worst that could happen on the way?

Well, the unlikely answer is that we would be unable to cross Westminster Bridge Road because of a barrage of naked cyclists. I had to think for a while about what the collective noun for naked cyclists would be. A bikepump of naked cyclists? I don’t know. I do know that I should have called this post London With a T0dger but that would forever have got me the wrong kind of Google searches. Plus, it wasn’t just one. It was many, many.

The World Naked Bike Ride has been a London institution for years now but I’m not sure I’ve ever spotted it in the wild before. I have a memory of maybe glimpsing the tailend, if you will, when I worked in Oxford Street but I’ve certainly never been at eye level to it before and it was indeed eye-opening. Not that everyone was fully nude, no no. One guy was wearing a high-vis but nothing else and another guy was diligently covering his shoulders in a thick layer of suncream. Just his shoulders tho.

The website warns that children may be disconcerted by the ride and I think that’s fair to say. I mainly found it amusing, especially as the riders were gathered right outside Nathan’s office, but the kids  – and I include CousinO in that – were a little perturbed. “It’s so inappropriate!” CousinZ shouted as we walked along Westminster Bridge with the riders riding freely in the other direction. Very freely indeed.

Anyhoo, that made the walk a bit more interesting and took the kids’ minds off their hot and aching feet. When we got to Horseferry Playground, it did indeed have an underwhelming water feature which the children mostly ignored, but it was nice and shady in there so a good place to play on a warm day. It also had a statue of Emmeline Pankhurst, who Eva identified almost-correctly as “the leader of the Suffra-Gets”:

and some horse statues which reminded me of Artax from Neverending Story:

The playground has come a long way since the sad single slide we visited on New Year’s Day 2013. It now has a kiosk, selling quite impressively overpriced cans of Coke and ice creams and toilets that are accessible by paying 20p on a credit or debit card. Which is better than having to have change but I wonder if I’ll forget about it until the statement comes and ponder over what the weird 20p transaction might be. It also had disabled loos, which are free with a radar key.

It also still has a decently sized sandpit, a roundabout, swings, a slide, a wooden boat on springs and a swing that’s big enough for all three kids:

We stayed for an hour and a half or so before crossing Lambeth Bridge and wandering back along the Albert Embankment to Waterloo.

So, some old LWAT turf but unvisited since pre-pandemic times. It was really nice to be back and the South Bank always delivers when it comes to hipster food and something new to look at. I just wasn’t quite expecting exactly what we did look at….!

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