Museum of London – 07/01/19

Congratulations all of you for making it through the Christmas holidays! All of you who don’t have kids at the same school as my kids, that is. Cause we’re still on holidays and end only just in sight.

Which is why I found myself off work yet again and looking for fun places to take the kids to. I was considering the Museum of Childhood and the new Pirates exhibition there but Eva went there on Saturday with the BunnyFamily while Roo and I were off at the Extreme Park in Finsbury Park. Eva still doesn’t yike trampolining. And don’t ask how Nathan got out of any childwrangling at all on Saturday…but he did.

So with Museums of Childhood and Science both recently visited, I had to think of somewhere we’d been a little bit longer ago. Maybe somewhere we’d last been with Eva in utero? Yes, the Museum of London – the City one, not the Docklands one.  My reasoning was flawless; it was close to Liverpool Street, likely to be not-too-busy with most of the schools back and it had a section on what Eva calls “The Great Fire of Yondon”. She recently performed a very festive musical on the subject so is a little bit obsessed. So much so that when I told her where we were going, she insisted on dressing as someone from 1666:

In fact, she wrote a checklist of all the items she needed which is a new high in getting-dressed-procrastination levels. She based her costume on what one of the other narrators was wearing and she didn’t manage to find a cloth cap but overall, she was pleased with her Look.

I was imagining there wouldn’t be any school trips at the Museum today as it’s probably first day back for most people. But as we walked down London Wall, we were following a group from a private school, all wearing matching blue hats. I mention it only because it allowed Eva to tap into another one of her current obsessions – “Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger”.

“It’s the children from Oakmoor School” she hissed as we lurked behind them “And I can see someone who looks like Mr Peterson”

Now, this was getting interesting. Because as all “Nativity 2: Danger in the Manger” fans know, Mr Peterson is played by the divine David Tennant. Could Eva really see someone who resembled him, hanging out by the Corporation of London car park?

No, couldn’t see anyone. I was very disappointed. But we’ll come back to that saucy timelord. Frequently, I expect.

What we did see was an inflatable sculpture of some mould or possibly slime next to an old bit of wall. The seats looked newly put in and presumably it’s a nice space for us oxygen-starved City workers to have five minutes away from our desks. But I’m not sure the mould added anything. We’ll come back to Weird Square Mile Artwork later too.

But onward to the museum! And I was really pleased with myself for having remembered the way. There’s an escalator next to these giant pipe outlets:

And that takes you up to the highwalks and from there you can follow signs to the museum. Do not follow Reuben’s advice and scale the pipe things or parachute off the highwalks. He’s been playing a touch too much PS4 over the holidays I think.

We got to the museum around 11:45 which is early for lunch but I was cranky so we sat down in the cafe near the entrance for a sandwich and a oat latte (I think soy is falling out of fashion). I had brought the kids’ rolls with me but bought them drinks and giant cookies to justify their bums being on cafe seats. Not that their bums ever stayed there for long….I think they were impatient to get on.

There was a lot to get through. And Eva seemed to be in danger of missing most of it as she insisted on walking through the first gallery – “London Before London” with her eyes tightly closed. She’s developed a phobia of bones apparently and there were some on display. Nathan discovered this at the Natural History Museum a few days back. The ideal place to discover it really.

Still, Roo found a lot of interest in that gallery – he liked looking at the early weapons and the maps of prehistoric London and did the quizzes on both the display boards (ironmongering) and the computer screens (roundhouse building). It was a very different experience to taking him as a two-year-old, where he just ran through the whole place in a matter of minutes.

Next up was Roman London and Eva consented to open her eyes to see the giant picture of the elephant on the wall and the model Roman town. But we moved quite swiftly through it because there were still occasional bones. We did hang out in the medieval house for a while, trying out the beds, but it was a bit dark in there so I didn’t get any decent photos. Sorry.

We paused by the Shakespeare sign for Roo to recite the entire “Life is a Stage” monologue from “As You Like It”. He really has changed a lot in the last seven years…well, you’d hope so wouldn’t you? We tried on some Tudor headgear and then made our way to the main attraction – the Great Fire of London display.

Here, Eva consented to read every panel although fire is much more scary than animal bones in my opinion.  It might have been because she had a song for every one. They both tried on the fireman’s helmets and played the “Heroes or Villains?” quiz, with some interesting angles on what made a villain (a cowardly postman, according to Roo). Then we went in and watched the GFOL film, complete with the model of London that lights up as the fire spreads. It’s pretty basic but effective. I wasn’t sure why the film only seemed to be playing in the top corner of the screen though?

I was ready for a little break by now and we headed downstairs to a seating area where there was drawing stuff for the kids and some questions for them to answer and put into a box. The answers were eclectic, as you’d expect from my children. In answer to “What do you expect to see in the Museum in 100 years’ time?” Eva drew a cat in a dress and high heels. Of course. Still, it gave me a few minutes to sit down.

Right next door was a room that hadn’t been there in 2011 – an exhibition on the making of the Olympic Cauldron. If you’re clever, you can probably work out why it hadn’t been there in 2011. It was really interesting and weirdly moving to see the copper torches close up. Neither of the kids remember the Olympics but were suitably impressed by the size of the things:

In the next section, the kids took the opportunity to gender stereotype themselves even more than normal as Roo took a quiz on becoming an apprentice gunmaker and Eva admired the Georgian-era dresses and footwear. Honestly, these kids are all about weapons and shoes. I don’t know where I went wrong.

But I clearly went right somewhere because on entering the Victorian Pleasure Gardens section, Reuben made the exact same comment as I did seven years ago about the blank-faced models in Victorian dress – that it was just like the Autons episode of Dr Who. That’s my boy. Or rather Nathan’s boy. Roo took it a few steps further though, tying in the red phone box just outside and the earlier “Mr Peterson” spotting to theorise that we were actually in an episode of Dr Who. Or maybe the HISHE 12 Days of Christmas song with the 3 Creepy Dolls. Yeah, he needed some time away from screens.

Except the very next thing we stopped at was all about kids’ TV – the Flowerpot Men of the 50s specifically. The kids didn’t pay much attention, dismissing them as “more creepy dolls” but did spend some time playing with the teddy and the blocks trolley and the combination of the two:

We were flagging a little so had a quick wander around the Victorian shops and took in Booth’s Poverty Map before visiting the downstairs cafe for a cup of tea for me and the remainder of their giant cookies.

There were a couple more stops to make before we headed home, seeing as we were in Great Fire mode already. The first was St Paul’s – a few minutes gentle wander away from the museum. This was pivotal in Eva’s one line in her play so she really wanted to see it close up. We didn’t go in, but walked the perimeter and looked out for the Bird Lady from Mary Poppins who was sadly absent.

Next, we walked down past Mansion House and Cannon Street towards the Monument and Pudding Lane. On the way, we spotted another new piece of Weird Square Mile Artwork. Again, Reuben thought it might be something from Dr Who but it just looks like soggy piles of rope to me. I’m clearly uncultured:

The Monument is strangely hard to spot from where we were but the kids were competing as to who’d see it first so Reuben made a few haphazard guesses before the real one came into sight:

We weren’t climbing it today – we’d already walked a lot and those yittle yegs were not gonna cope with 300 stairs. But we took a photo on Pudding Lane:

And played and sang on these themed concrete benches:

So, if you’re that way inclined there is a lot of GFOL-themed entertainment to be found on a grey January day and for not a lot of money either. I don’t imagine Eva’s next obsession will be anywhere near so cost effective – I can’t say taking Roo to Greece because he was going through an Ancient Greeks phase was the kind thing we could do every year. But a few hours at a museum and seeing some London landmarks? Bargain! And now, how long till they’re back at school….?

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