Hippopo Thames – 17/09/14

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It’s funny how much can change in 6 months.  We only left Vauxhall in March but the gentrification that pushed housing out of our price range has gathered pace.  Now, Vauxhall has its own Street Food Garden,  swanky new tower blocks and an art installation.  Even the horses at Vauxhall City Farm have a nice new stable.  It’s a funny kind of gentrification,  where a homeless hostel still nestles next to Waitrose and the toilets in the refitted Starbucks have to be locked to keep out undesirables. And the developments that are arriving seem aimed at people like us – Dirty Burger,  Nandos, street food- but people like us can’t afford to live there anymore.  With the American Embassy arriving,  Vauxhall will soon be the playground of the super – rich but they’re unlikely to want to play under the railway arches in what used to be a gay club or bondage shop.  And at heart,  it’s still a massive gyratory. Which,  if the gay clubs go,  will be the only gyrating that goes on round there.  I can’t imagine what it will be like in ten years but the next few seem to be full of empty apartments with a million pound price tag and confused hipsters sipping pho by the train line before boarding the train back to Walthamstow with all the other Hackney refugees.

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I might sound bitter.  I’m not, really but the area does seem to be going through a bit of an identity crisis right now.

Anyway,  that was a remarkably downbeat note to start a post about a nice day with. Let’s rewind. Back to the all new Starbucks. Where I’m having a cuppa and some cake with Bob, Boby and Tombles. Our mission today is to seek out the giant hippo in the Thames.  As you can probably guess from the photo,  we found it.

But first, there was some time to kill. So, at Eva’s request we went to Vauxhall City Farm so that she could coo at the bunnies, fear the chickens and attempt to feed the ponies. Here’s that swish new stable I mentioned earlier:

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Eva also liked the eco-house, where we chatted with a random person about donkey rides. Boby seemed pleased to see the animals but she’s a girl with a heck of a lot of city farms under her belt. She’s not easily impressed.

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Facebook friends of mine will notice that Eva is still, at this point, sporting the same topknot that she had at nursery the day before, albeit in a more dishevelled state. It’s about to come undone in a spectacular Cyndi-Lauper-esque power mullet:

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Toddler Girls Just Want to Have Fun.

With a mullet in place, it was time to head to Hackney-on-Thames aka the Vauxhall Street Food Garden. It was super-nice of Vauxhall to put on a whole market just to make Bob and Boby feel at home and I’m glad we could reciprocate by styling Eva in such a hipster way. It’s a long slither of land, just beside the railway tracks and I can’t remember what was there before, which suggests to me that it was nothing much. Now, they’ve packed in two bars, several food stalls and a whole bank of gazebos:

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There were burritos, curries, paella,  crepes and a BBQ as well as a Vietnamese stall and some others I’ve clearly forgotten. It wasn’t outrageously expensive either – mine and Eva’s BBQ food came to £6.50, which was a very tasty artisan sausage in a roll, with an extra sausage for the girl. It was a piece of art, too:

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Onion chutney, avocado salsa, some kinda fancy bread, sauce and salad all came as standard although Eva, the purist, just went for sausage plus ketchup:

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(In a roll I’d brought with me just in case I needed it…I swear I am turning into my mother)

Tombles had the bacon burger and said it was very tasty. Bob had the curry and it was pretty good. Boby looked like she would have given anything a go. The seating is plentiful and undercover, so we didn’t need to worry too much about those impending storm clouds, and we even got a free coffee at the bar! It’s a nice addition to the Vauxhall scene…just a pity that, as I said earlier, the multi-millionaires of aSt George’s Wharf might think they’re above it. But who could be above these classy toilets?:

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I’m guessing this has another life as a nightclub (hence the “only one per cubicle” signs). In some ways, Vauxhall doesn’t forget its roots:

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Ahem. Anyway, it was night on half one by this point, which is when we got access to the foreshore for hippo-viewing. If you’re not sure what I mean, it was a rare opportunity to climb down into the Thames at low tide and stand on a bit of shore that’s normally a bit of riverbank. Oh, and there was a hippo in the river. Obviously. I think it’s part of the “Totally Thames” festival.

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You can access the foreshore just past St George’s Pier, down a set of specially constructed metal steps. It’s not suitable for buggies, but Boby had it all worked out:

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Mummy-wearing FTW! As you can tell by Boby’s expression, the hippo itself isn’t that much to look at but it’s a cool thing to have, even if it’s largely facing the wrong way to take pictures of. The real prize is a scamper around the riverbed, getting a view of Battersea, Westminster and Pimlico that you never normally would. Of course, I completely failed to capture this view so instead, here’s Eva getting her shoes dirty:

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It’s definitely worth a look, for the two things combined – novelty artwork that looks like an oversized Kinder snack and access to a place you can’t normally go. And it’s freeeee!

As we went back up the steps, I also noticed that someone was trying to invite me to some kind of rendez-vous:
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We were in spyland, after all. Sadly I had other plans so had to decline but I’ll let you imagine the adventure I could have had. Me, the hippo, the double agents, the toddler….crazy fun. And so was our day in Vauxhall.

More details here (official site)

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