Reuben is back at school! After a nailbiting 10 weeks of pox, house move and holiday the boy is once more stuck in the system. And loving it. But this school is different to his last one – they wear a uniform, for starters. I thought it would be a simple enough task to gather the uniform needed but I was wrong. Walk with me, I’ll tell you all about it. There are slides later on.
So, we had our destination for the mission – Ilford. Handily located just around the North Circular and, even more handily, where we were attending a wedding ceremony that morning. With the couple beautifully and emotionally wed, we set off in our wedding finery to comb the shops of Ilford High Road for some polo shirts, trousers, jumpers and socks. I thought we had it in the bag when M&S had a sizeable uniform department…but I was disappointed, and the only things that went in the bag were socks and overpriced trousers.
Debenhams next – we bought an egg and spoon race game but he couldn’t really wear that. Then Next next – no uniform at all. By then, Reuben was losing patience with this whole thing and I left Nathan with him, and a sleeping Eva, on the Chuggington ride outside Next while I ran about a bit, to no avail. Happily, things were about to improve. Not in the uniform-buying stakes, no no, but we did happen upon the “Play Garden” at the bottom of the Exchange Mall, which Reuben enjoyed…and there was a guy giving out free nachos and guacamole.
I was only gutted that we’d already eaten, so couldn’t introduce the kids to the delights of spud-u-like. It’s a spud and…get this..it’s exactly how you like it. I was a big fan during my retail days in Surrey Quays and Bromley but it wasn’t to be – we’d already introduced them to the delights of Subway instead, where Reuben had got really excited by the idea of choosing exactly what he wanted on his sandwich (he chose ketchup and ham). See, he would love spud-u-like.
Anyways, back to the play garden. It’s not huge but it’s a welcome respite from shopping, which we certainly needed at the time. And it’s got a tiny, tiny slide:
As well as some fake greenery and mirror wall things:
You may think that Reuben was sulky enough by now, but check out the face on Nathan:
Was he loving it, loving it, loving it? Was it, was it wicked? Why did this song burst into my head a few days’ back after a decade’s absence and why can’t I get rid of it?
Let’s skip on.
TK Maxx – no. Sainsbury’s (on the other side of the town centre) – no. It was time for more decisive action:
Mmmm, cake. In fact, ice cream AND cake. The kindly proprietor of “Noah’s Ark Cafe” heard Reuben debating whether to have carrot cake or ice cream and gave him both. Bonus was that I got both too! A sugar boost and a cup of tea was what I needed to press on with the mission and I frantically googled more places we could try. A uniform shop up towards Valentine’s Park promised that it would be the only place we ever needed.
It wasn’t. But we scored a jumper.
While we were in the area it seemed foolish not to check out the local parkage. The town centre of Ilford is quite grim and 60s, so I wasn’t expecting much from the blob of green on Google maps but it turned out to be quite lovely:
Unfortunately, my camera had another one of its funny turns and switched itself to sepia, meaning that we were, for a few minutes at least, stuck around 1901:
With the side effect that Eva turned into a ghost:
But I managed to switch it back and capture, in glorious technicolour, the sight of Reuben laughing at a sign that depicted a dog doing a dump:
Well, poo is funny, isn’t it? We headed towards the playground and along the way found a wishing well that had been filled in, presumably for tedious and sensible H&S reasons. Where’s the fun of a wishing well if there’s no jeopardy?
Reuben made a wish – for more dinosaurs – and we went to play. There was a lot going on in this playground. There were climbing frames adorned with animals:
A very sociable swing arrangement:
A climbing slope that Eva insisted on sliding down, still wearing her pretty dress (not the first time she’s misused one of these):
A palm tree, a teddy-themed climbing frame, another metal thing that Eva used as a slide:
Word puzzles, sensory bits, more slides, more climbing bits, everything you could ask for:
Which, of course, is why Reuben decided to beat up Daddy instead. And recruit an ally to help him! Nominally, they were Spiderman and Iron Man fighting Doctor Octopus but from where I was standing, it looked very much like Nathan was being duffed up by two 4-year-olds:
It was time to move on. We were on a mission, don’t forget, and although it was 4:30 we still didn’t have all we needed. We would need to drive somewhere else and keep going. But first, I needed to peel Eva off the climbing frame:
Aren’t ya just loving this playground-in-formalwear thing? Ankle-length dresses are so practical for climbing in…
Next stop was going to be Asda in Beckton. I have a lot of faith in Asda and their ability to provide cheap and homogenous clothes for schoolchildren. We set the satnav to go there but, naturally, I got distracted along the way. I saw a giant Sainsburys just off the North Circular that I thought might do the trick so we pulled off and tried to find it. We failed at that, but instead found the rarest of all beasts:
A Woolworths! Now, I have no idea how a massive retail unit in Beckton came to be still branded by Woolworths in 2014 but I knew two things:
1) Woolworths sold school clothes!
2) That Woolworths was shut. Just like all the other Woolworths in the country.
As Eminem said when Stan died, damn.
So, I tried Matalan next door. It had uniform! It had polo shirts in the right colour! But…not in the right size. With Nathan and the kids in the car, I pleaded with the sales assistant to check in stock for a 5-6 year pack, and she took pity on me. I must have looked a bit mad – wedding clothes, huge ladder in my tights, make up seven hours old, manic look in the eye – and she probably thought it was best to appease me. To no avail, though. They had none.
Back to the car, and Reuben was asleep. We had one last roll of the dice. It was the Promised Land.
Wanna know the ending? We won. Thank you, oh thank you Beckton Asda Superstore. But what did we lose on the journey? Well, only my mind and that’s been on the way out for ages. We’ll call it a break-even overall…