As most people do, I decided to celebrate my birthday in the leafy enclaves of Bethnal Green. I suppose it’s fitting – we went to North London for Reuben’s birthday and West London for Nathan’s birthday, so it was only fitting to go to East London for mine. Otherwise, we risked spending a birthday in – shock, horror – somewhere we actually lived. Imagine that. The difference here was that I didn’t have to go for an eye test on my birthday, unlike my boys. That’s cause I organise the eye tests. Poor boys.
Luckily, the Big Guy remembered my birthday and organised a gloriously sunny day for me. Remarkable, given that it was snowing exactly two weeks before. Nathan was off work for the day and we skipped off to Bethnal Green with happy hearts.
First stop,the Museum of Childhood. In fact, that was my entire plan (lunch at the Museum cafe with Roo’s godmother, who works next door, followed by a romp around). But, as we know, plans change. This plan changed. For more than one reason.
Exhibit A – the hordes of schoolchildren swarming over the sandpit. That’s just a turn of phrase, by the way – they didn’t have schoolchildren in a cage as an exhibit. Maybe they should have, but they didn’t. It’s not child cruelty if they have a sandpit in there, right?! Anyway, point being there were a LOT of school trips in there. Possibly the same school trips that were swarming all over the Transport Museum the day before. Dang children are following me everywhere this week! And it’s a bit stressful. They’re all so much bigger and stronger than Roo and the sight of hundreds of them stamping on my little boy in the sandpit was quite distressing. He didn’t give a toss – obviously – but I did.
Exhibit B – the unseasonable sunshine. You can’t waste a day like that inside, watching your toddler getting eaten alive. So, after lunch and a reasonable amount of playtime, we made a break for it. And our destination was Victoria Park, the expanse of green that stretches from Hackney Wick to Bethnal Green to Bow. No real reason, just needed to get away from those kids….
I’ve been to Victoria Park twice before. The first time was to see Radiohead and I remember it as being a big park, in the dark, with Radiohead in. I also remember a guy at the end trying to skip the queues at the gates by leaping over the railings. And getting stuck. Ouch! The second time, I was meeting Roo’s friend Katie (and her dad) and we went to the Hackney Wick side and tried to meet them at entirely the wrong cafe/bandstand combination. They found us eventually but we had no idea where we were. The whole park was being renovated and bits were roped off, but we did have a go on these ridiculously big slides (see above). Really, they’re HUGE aren’t they? To get some perspective, those specks at the top are Katie and her dad. Scariness.
Anyway, this time we went to an entirely different bit of the park and it looked a lot prettier than last time. Really, way prettier than you’d expect an East London park to be. There was a lake and a cafe next to a lake and…a portakabin next to a cafe next to a lake. Ah, that’s the East London I know and love!
The map said there was a V&A playground nearby, so we headed there. Another pleasant surprise! It looked new, and a quick google search informs me that it was only opened on 10 December last year. With Christmas and the cold weather since then, there’s barely been a chance for the vandals to get out there and trash it. Even vandals go to their Mum’s at Christmas, right? And stay in when it’s cold?
“Kate, stop buggering about and furnish us with some facts!” I hear you (both of you) cry. OK then. It’s what I would call a natural play area, sprawling over a large area, with wooden fences dividing each bit. From the photo above, it looks like a medieval village. You wouldn’t be far off with that. There were little wooden huts, a swing made out of plaited rope and a treehouse kinda affair, which we decided was too high for Roo. I know he’s keen on Winnie the Pooh at the moment and it did look like Owl’s house but that’s no reason to break his neck, is it?
Talking of neck-breaking, check out the precarious ladder going up to this slide! I’m guessing it was intended for bigger children (and this photo doesn’t show quite how tall the ladder was -at least above my head height) but there’s no telling the boy. So, Nathan went up – and down – with him. After that, he mainly wanted to play in the sandpit, which was at a more reassuring level – i.e. ground. He sat happily for ages, making snowmen in the sand, or rather instructing me to make them. There were also some cute wooden huts around the sandpit and I failed to get a picture where Nathan and Roo both looked normal in them. But here’s one of the failed attempts:
VERDICT: A surprisingly nice play area, with a natural kinda feel. We missed out huge parts of the park but hey, there’s always next year…