I don’t make many claims for this blog. Is it informative? Maybe. Well-written? Depends how much caffeine I’ve had. Objective? *Snort* No. I’d give anyone a good review if they gave me a free muffin or something. But I’ll say this – everything on this blog has been tested with a real live, kicking, screaming (occasionally), whining (often), energetic, restless toddler. Which is why I’m going to tell you about my day in Central London with Roo. Actually, it’s an amalgamation of at least two different days in Central London, along with the combined wisdom of almost a decade living and working around here. Soooo…are you sitting comfortably? I’ll begin.
Let’s start with the obvious. Don’t take a toddler to Oxford St unless you really, really have to. It’s not designed for people of any description, let alone small ones. If you want somewhere that’s been designed with any kind of plan in mind, see yesterday’s post (here). If I sound like I hate Oxford Street, that’s cause I do. I know a lot of people say that but I worked there for two and a half years so I have reason to dislike the busy, touristy just IN TENSENESS of it all. So avoid if possible.
However if, like me, you go to Oxford Circus on a regular basis (Say, your church meets a few streets north) and so regularly find yourself in Central London on a Sunday afternoon with a restless toddler, here’s a few ideas. Firstly, there is Hamleys on Regent St. You may come out broken both in spirit and bank balance but it will grant you a few minutes of happy toddlerdom watching the model railway. This is one thing I’m recommending that I haven’t tried out but we will do soon. I just fear for the expense of paying for everything my light-fingered little boy acquires along the way. Shouldn’t have watched Oliver when I was pregnant – those little boy-thieves seem cute on the telly but you don’t want one in your pushchair.
Just behind Hamleys is Carnaby St, much beloved of reality TV shows (“Snog, marry avoid” and the ilk. You will always see people getting interviewed on Carnaby St). What it lacks in toddler-friendly shops, it makes up for being pedestrianised, so that you can just set them loose to run. Sometimes that’s all you need.
Of course, you could take them to one of the many squares around Oxford St. Let me run through them for you. Golden Square is the most toddler-unfriendly square possible (all paved, sharp drops, wobbly stones on any walls they might choose to walk on, full of winos) but I’ve gone there in an emergency before. Hanover Square used to be nice but is currently a building site (thanks Crossrail!). I think the square is still usable but noisy and again full of winos. Tavistock Square is where the handbag thieves from Oxford Street always used to congregate, along with their friends the winos, but not sure what it’s like now. Soho Square is probably the best but gets very full of office types and shoppers at lunchtime and…well, you’ve guessed it…
I took Roo to scope out Soho Square a little while back. We were meeting at our church centre in Soho, instead of our normal venue, and I had an hour or so to kill. It was very early in the morning (10ish), so the only winos out were the ones still drunk from the night before. We had a relatively calm time (part of that was sitting on a bench, eating yet more Quavers) but he did try and dart into the traffic from the four gates that lead straight into the road. Vigilance is key. When not trying to kill himself, he played on the grass quite happily and chased the pigeons and investigated the little house in the middle. It wasn’t ideal but it was a solution of sorts.
Then we had a little wander back through Soho. The advantage of Soho is that – while the main streets are taxified deathtraps – there are several quieter streets which are traffic-free or almost traffic free. The above photo was take in Meard St, which Roo liked wandering down because he could hide behind the bollards and shout “Boo!” ( a favourite occupation of his. Even though you can’t effectively hide behind a bollard). Admittedly, some of the traffic-free alleyways aren’t the wholesome places you would normally take a toddler but hey, he can’t read yet. Or understand. Our church centre is situated in just such an alleyway (Green’s Court), just opposite the newly renamed “British Adult Shop” but as far as he’s concerned, it’s just a place to chase pigeons through. So, there’s a recommendation for you…take your toddler to dark alleyways in Soho. But probably only in the daylight.
All of which would bring me neatly on to my day today if this post wasn’t already far too long. So, that’s for another post…