Yesterday, I decided it was Family Time. We’ve had weeks of house-moving stress, packing, unpacking, trying to get things done with the kids under our feet and of course 10 days of chickenpox isolation thrown into the mix. Added all together, the last time we went out as a family (not including church) was our trip to the Imagine Festival. It had been a long time, and with Nathan leaving earlier and coming home later during the week, Eva had basically forgotten who he was and has taking to screeching every time he picks her up. It was time to bond over some spicy chicken and balloons.
The second part was sorted – we had R’s birthday in Charlton later in the afternoon, so there’d be balloons there (many of which suffered a terrible fate at the feet of Reuben….but let’s not dwell on that). The first part was more complex. My rough plan was that we’d take the A12 down to the South-East and stop somewhere along the way for lunch and a play. Jubilee Park in Leyton was my first thought – a new pirate ship has opened there, which has as yet been uninvestigated by my tiny pirates. But then I considered lunch, and the essence of peri-peri floated across my mind. It causes a weird state of mind – peripsychosis, if you will. Once you’ve started picking your sides, it’s hard to consider any other lunch options.
So where’s the nearest Nandos to Jubilee Park? Westfield. Well, that sounded like an added complication and would involve parking at Westfield on a Saturday. As I considered other options on Google Street View, it kept throwing me back to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, near – you guessed it – Westfield. And I really mean kept doing it. Sometimes I wasn’t anywhere near Stratford and yet still, the map would resolve itself and ta-da, I’d be back in the Olympic Park. One time, I swear I was looking at Ruislip. OK, that was a lie. But it was a bit spooky, how the map sent me back there again and again, as if there was no viable play-and-Nandos option near the A12 that didn’t involve parking tolls and ambiguous SatNav codes. It was beginning to look like a sign from Googd. Maybe it was time to revisit Westfield.
I’d been trying to do that for a while, but it seems like I have something of a Westfield curse. We wanted to go there over half term but then chicken pox struck. Scuppered! The time before, we’d planned to go to a Gruffalo event there in December but Eva was spectacularly sick everywhere the night before. Scuppered! (Although it did neatly coincide with my sicks thousandeth post on a certain forum. That was the only thing that was neat about that night). Maybe this time, I’d be lucky. Maybe this time they’d stay healthy. It was worth a try. So, as we stepped out of the door I made a snap decision. Set the SatNav for Westfield! What, the SatNav’s too old to recognise that postcode? OK, use a completely different one that apparently will work too (E15 2EE if anyone needs it). We would eat Nandos, and forsake the pirate ship for the joys of the Tumbling Bay playground. All the odds were in my favour.
Of course the odds weren’t in my favour. This was trying to drive to Westfield on a Saturday, just like every other unimaginative person in East London was trying to do. As we sat in a queue to turn off, wasting the beautiful day on a slip road, I made another snap decision. Sod Stratford, we would head straight to Greenwich and find peri-joy there. I swung out, floored the accelerator and reset that SatNav for an SE3-postcode that I’d basically just made up. I knew there was a Nandos in the desolate Millenium Village, just off the A102 in the same complex where we’d once seen “The Darjeeling Limited”, one of Wes Anderson’s weaker films. I remembered the complex as being deserted and very easy to find. Turns out it was neither. But a few 3-point turns in front of angry Greenwichians later, and some circling to find a parking space and we were in the glorious surrounds of….B&Q!
Well, of course we went to B&Q. We’ve just moved into a new house and have painting to do. It was too good an opportunity to miss, even on a sunny day. And Reuben found the whole “bathroom in a shop” concept very funny indeed. But paint and polyfilla bought, we finally got our Nandos. In the sunshine. With a dual carriageway in the background, and mango frozen yoghurt. An odd kind of bliss:
The kids were happier than they look in the photo, honest. They are really getting into Nandos, especially the refillable frozen yoghurt. And I may have skimmed the top of theirs a little too. Don’t tell the big chicken. Once we we’d topped up our peri-o-meters, it was time to find somewhere to play so we drove up to where R’s party was going to be, and Google Maps (them again) told us to head for a park called Hornfair Park.
It’s not just a park, it’s a multi-sports hub. Why is everything some kind of hub nowadays? I remember the days when nothing was a hub. Anyway, this park was home to Charlton Lido, which looked exciting, a tennis hub and a playground. Reuben was keen to find the last part, so skipped off through the ornamental gardens:
Eva by this point was on Nathan’s shoulders, having asked to “doddle” and then having given up on doddling after a few minutes but refusing to go in the buggy. Hopefully this meant she was learning to trust Daddy again.
It also meant that she could see the brightly-coloured playground equipment sticking out form behind the trees, as could Nathan and I. Reuben couldn’t because he’s a little too small and so was convinced we were just making this up. Cue much pouting and sighing about how we’d never find a playground, which couldn’t be countered with logic, no matter how often we told him that we could see it right there. Eventually he spotted it too and tried to break through the trees to get there, but was thwarted by a fence. We later discovered that this fence surrounded a paddling pool hub:
It being March, the paddling pool hub wasn’t full yet but just beyond it was the playground hub. At this point my phone did something crazy and slipped into monochrome mode, making our playground trip into something out of a French film. Observe how the children are beautiful, yet full of ennui!
Observe also, how this intrepid toddler keeps climbing over things that are clearly too big for her:
But at least she was bonding with her Daddy again. Because Daddy is the best at rescuing small, stuck girls.
Do you feel slightly melancholy after seeing these photos? Like you’re pondering the futility of life?
You may climb, Reuben, but what is life without colour? Fear not, because the phone is about to inexplicably switch back into technicolour mode again. It may hurt your eyes:
There we go, just in time to see Eva kneeing Nathan in the stomach, with his accompanying look of
pain bonding joy. That same swing was used by Reuben for his pterosaur impression, complete with cawing and a song about how “I am the biggest flying thing ev—-errrrr—-but I am not a bird, I am a din-o-saur”. We have a lot of these kind of songs at the moment. but even pterosaurs have parties to go to, so we had to go…there were balloons to pop and houmous to eat with spoons.I’d like to come back to the paddling pool some day. And maybe Westfield on the way. Or maybe not…