If you’ve followed this blog for a while you’ll know that we always try to have a Nice Family Day Out just before Christmas. I have choir gigs throughout late November and early December so as soon as those are done, it’s family bonding time. Yesterday wasn’t the smoothest but don’t worry! In true “influencer” style I’ll miss out the bad bits and make it look like we pulled off the plan immaculately.
And it was a complex plan. Even though the streets of HP have been like an ice rink these last few days, Eva had expressed a wish to go to an actual ice rink. There weren’t many rinks with Saturday availability at short notice, which is how we ended up in Canary Wharf.
Canary Wharf is a strange place. It’s like people imagine the City to be except the City is full of old buildings alongside the shiny new ones. Canary Wharf is pretty much all shiny. I’ve been there once to go to a corporate away day but have never really wandered about to take in the views. But with the new Elizabeth Line connections, it seems much more manageable to get there. It was a train strike day so we first had to establish whether there were any trains running on the Chingford branch (yes, two an hour till 6pm) and on the Elizabeth Line (yes on the Liverpool Street to Abbey Wood bit, which is what we needed). After a nightmare journey to church on Friday night I was apprehensive but the plan worked fine. We got off at Bethnal Green and walked to Whitechapel:
Which seems to be a completely different station to the one I went to last time I did that change. Impressive tho:
Also, didn’t this used to be the tiger-stripe pub?
The Elizabeth Line worked perfectly and we arrived at Canary Wharf just 45 minutes after leaving Highams Park. Time for a quick coffee before the ice skating. I’ve been wfh for two weeks so Pret has been sending me “U OK Hun?” e-mails saying how much they miss me. Don’t worry Pret – I am still hitting that coffee subscription as hard as I possibly can under the circumstances.
We had been told to arrive 25 minutes before the skating session so that we could sort skates etc. We did that but it’s worth noting that there are no toilets inside the skating pavilion. So if you have a child that decides they need the loo after they’re buckled in….well, they just have to get unbuckled. And if you’re a cruel mother who can’t be bothered to get their shoes back then they will have to tiptoe round the pavements in their socks.
It was only the kids and Nathan skating while I watched. There were lots of good reasons (and no, I’m not pregnant) but the defining one was that we had to pay an adult rate for Reuben so wouldn’t have been able to get a family ticket. But it saved faffing around with lockers to keep the bags in (lockers were available but for a non-refundable £1 coin). Under 12s needed an adult skating with them so one of us needed to go on but Nathan is clearly the more balanced of the two of us so seemed like he was the better choice.
So how did the 1 adult-2 kid combo get on on thin blades on ice? Variable. Nathan held Eva’s hand and she eventually made it to the centre of the rink. Roo mainly stuck to the side but seemed to be enjoying himself. I hung out on the viewing platform and tried to get a decent picture while other people’s teenagers hung out right in front of me. So these photos are not exactly ‘grammable but, as you’ll guess from the first paragraph, I am not actually an influencer.
Although Family Fun was high on the agenda, there were more agenda items to get through and those items involved visiting some shops. There were a few likely shops in Canary Wharf but the majority were higher-end retailers that weren’t quite what we were aiming for. So we planned to get the Elizabeth Line back to Tottenham Court Road. First though, a stop at Five Guys in Jubilee Place and a wander through this enchanted little forest:
Finding the Elizabeth Line was harder than I thought it would be. It seems to be a whole different station to the one where you get the Jubilee line and, weirdly, the Jubilee Line entrance was the one closest to Jubilee Place. So we went into the station and down a couple of escalators before admitting to ourselves that we would have to go back up and out before we found what we were looking for. At one point we decided to just take the Jubilee Line to Waterloo and then get the Northern Line.
But it was, don’t forget, a train strike day and the Westbound services were more than a little sporadic. There were no indications on the board of when the next train might be but, just as we decided to leave and find the Elizabeth Line, a train arrived, However, it was rammed so back to Plan B it was – climbing up a non-functioning escalator, back through a shopping centre and onto the ‘Liz line all the way to Tottenham Court Road in just a few minutes.
I can’t possibly say why TCR was my destination of choice but we deployed the usual family tactic of splitting into two teams so we could buy presents for each other. Reuben and I had a plan for Nathan and Eva’s gifts so we headed straight to <redacted> and were so efficient that we could bumble around Foyles for a bit before returning to the meeting point. We also wandered around St Giles HighStreet, which has been largely regenerated and is full of interesting street art like this giant dog:
And this tunnel made of lights and pipes:
The meeting point was Outernet, another relatively new landmark but one that Nathan and I briefly visited a few weeks back.
When we went before it was mainly just the Aquarium reel but yesterday there were a few variants. Both kids enjoyed the Christmas songs that accompanied these giant monsters:
Reuben tells me they’re from a video game called the Fall Guys but when I was there with Eva, she just loved the fact that they were singing the same song as she did with her drama group last week – “Merry Xmas Everybody”
This bit was very impressive but hurt my brain because it genuinely looked like we were standing under a tall, pointed roof:
We swapped teams and again I made good time so we again spent some time hanging around St Giles High Street and going to Caffe Nero for a brownie. Eva reckons their brownie is the best of all the chain coffee shops. Sorry Pret!
Eva liked the giant dog and lights and pipes just as much as Roo did:
And also this light-and-pipe sculpture in the middle:
Presents bought, it would have been nice to go for another coffee but we could never forget that there would be no trains home after 6. So, for the third time that day the ‘Liz line was calling. And at least we found it first attempt this time….