I like to think my kids have a certain amount of balance in their lives. I’ll give you an example – here’s the lunch Eva and I had yesterday:
Vegan vegetable soup, hand-prepared by small children and cooked over a fire in a forest. Accompanied by freshly made bread, also prepared by children and also cooked over the fire. That was yesterday.
Happy Meals in Hackney.
There were various reasons why we were hanging out in Hackney but they’d be tedious to go into, so let’s just say we were meeting two of Eva’s godparents, Ellie and Wiley, for a McDonalds and a stately home.
Hold up, a stately home? In Hackney? I was surprised too. When I first found out about Sutton House a few days back, I assumed it was somewhere distant and leafy. Sutton, maybe. But no, it’s just opposite Homerton Hospital. How have I never noticed this place before?
This weekend they’re holding a Christmas event, billed as a Surreal Santa’s Grotto. Entry to the house is free for kids and a pound for adults and seeing Santa will cost you £3 per child. Pretty reasonable, really. Along the way there’s mulled wine, craft stalls and even some history.
We opted for the history bit first, given that Roo is totally into history at the moment. But turns out he’s only interested in the period around 1666, specifically in the area around Pudding Lane. He has a song about it. So we went into the Tudor cellar and Roo expressed some concerns about the floor crumbling because it was so old. We went back upstairs again. There we met some lovely ladies with some musical instruments and a puppet called Mr Otter. He was a friendly and inquisitive otter…some might say over-friendly (“Touch my fur!”). The entertainers were there to promote a production of the Snow Queen they’re doing in the house from 19th-23rd Dec. It’s an interactive theatre piece and sounds like a lot of fun.
Having stroked Mr Otter at his command, we went in search of Santa and found him in the double decker caravan in the garden. How does a double decker caravan work? Well, that’s a good question:
Just like that. We needed to register the kids in order to go into the grotto, so we followed Betty the Elf to the cinema room where we put them on the list and spent the few minutes’ waiting time slumped on giant cushions, watching Frozen.
It was going to be hard to move them out of there but Santa’s quite a big incentive. Their names were called and we were off to the surreal grotto…
Santa chatted to them for a bit and was asked some awkward questions (“If you know where I live, why don’t you tell me now”) but luckily not by my kids. They each got a present and then it was out to play in the nearby play bus
Where we all got a chance to be the driver:
There was also giant Connect 4 in the bus and some other play equipment. Outside, there was a pile of tyres filled with sand that you could lose an Eva in:
Can you see her? Can ya?
At this point, we were feeling slightly chilly so it was appropriate that Frozen was the only thing that would get the kids back inside. They watched happily with a cup of popcorn until Eva got kicked in the eye by a toddler. So then we went upstairs, to the story tent where a book played a spooky rendition of “Jingle Bells” on repeat. It really gave the room an authentic Gothic Horror feel, especially as there were some flowy white dresses for Eva to try on:
I think they looked better on Ellie, just because she really, really suited the Victorian Maid look:
We also nipped up to the attic, which had housed squatters in the 1980s. They’d decided to preserve the squat, which was a touch surreal in the middle of a historical house. It’s not your typical National Trust property:
But then lest we forget, we were still in Hackney and not in the middle of the countryside somewhere. Look, honestly, it’a London out there.
It was 4 o clock and the kids were getting weary so we started to head home, skimming the craft stalls as we did. But what a quirky gem to find a few minutes’ walk from Hackney Central! The Christmas Fair is on again tomorrow (Sunday 6th) so go and see Santa while you can but if not, go and visit another time. It’s a bizarre place but lots of fun.