Geronimo is Coming!

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Just a quick reminder that the first ever Geronimo Festival is happening THIS WEEKEND at Tatton Park, Cheshire. Headlining are CBeebies’ Mr Bloom, Katy Ashworth and Cook and Line from “Swashbuckle”. We’ll be there on the Sunday, so if you see a Spiderman with a yellow cap on, dragging a sulky Elsa behind him…that’s us. Say hello.

There are still tickets available so book now! See you there.

Posted in Creating precious childhood memories or something (days out) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Wanstead Park – 01/05/15

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Did I mention that we are approaching the age of Maximum Whinge? Well, don’t worry if you missed it…there’ll be plenty later on in the post.

Our destination yesterday was Chalet Wood, Wanstead Park, to see the spectacular bluebell carpet before they all wilted. Our aims were 1) to get there and 2) to not cause any permanent damage. Despite the picture above, we achieved 2). She just about managed to tiptoe through the bluebells without trampling them. 1) was harder to achieve. Let’s blame SatNav.

It was a rare day in that Nathan was off work and Reuben was at school…so it was the three of us that were driving round the North Circular to Wanstead. Except that the three of us got in the wrong lane and ended up on the M11. Like I said, we’ll blame SatNav. The M11 does have a turn off before you hit Cambridge, but not that long before. It was certainly countryside that we found ourselves in, and I was making rapid mental adjustments that involved the Hainault Country Park or that park with the sandpit in Chigwell that someone once told me about. But the wrong turn or two only strengthened Nathan’s determination to Stick To The Plan.

Luckily, no more wrong turns presented themselves and we found our way not only back down the M11, but the A406, the A12 and some other other little roads that led to us to a rural-looking carpark. If it sounds like a long way, it really wasn’t. But it was a touch more scenic than Plan A.

And here was the carpark we found ourselves in:

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From there, you have four ways to go and there’s no obvious sign pointing towards the bluebell woods. One way, though, is clearly off limits:

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So, we took the middle option – a little track which didn’t quite have the reassuring look of the main path or the access road. But, despite Nathan’s misgivings, it went exactly where we wanted it to. The bluebell woods!

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Now, I may have mentioned a slight countryside phobia of mine before, and I’m sure that part of it is to do with watching the Ruth Rendell mysteries when I was younger. They were filmed around the Hampshire countryside, so whenever I think of the woods around Winchester, I imagine a corpse turning up in them. I’ve learnt to engage with nature by only visiting  bits of countryside with phone reception and a tube line  and this wood ticked both boxes. So, you’ll be pleased to know I didn’t even think about the Inspector Wexford mysteries in this bluebell wood. Nup, Broadchurch all the way. I was expecting FencePost Lee to turn up any second, chasing a young girl about.

Luckily, he didn’t.  Our own young girl had fun though, sticking mainly to the paths and looking at the pretty flowers. There are a few wigwams dotted about, which she really liked:

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It was 10ish by this point, and well time for coffee. So, we made our way to the open space beyond the wood, in search of the cafe. I googled it on the way (see! phone reception!) and saw that it was a kiosk, rather than a cafe. That didn’t bode well for people who’d spent all their cash on a Jumble Trail and an oven. Sure enough, it didn’t take card and so Nathan and I made do with a packet of M&Ms from my pocket between us. Eva, as ever, had her snack box with her. And we had a pretty view:

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And we found some goslings! Eva was happy with those:

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But what she wasn’t happy with was the lack of playground. I’d kinda assumed there would be one, but another quick google proved my assumption wrong. Eva seemed to think I’d promised to take her to somewhere called “Tunnel Park” but as I didn’t even know where that was, I very much doubt I’d promised it.

This logic did not sit well with whingey girl. There was whinging. Even a pretty fountain failed to distract her for long:

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So, we elicited some clues from her – it had a tunnel, it had a boat, she’d been there – and concluded it was likely to be Bisterne Avenue Park in Walthamstow. I showed her a photo of it on my phone and she stropped and said it wasn’t Tunnel Park. Nathan showed her the exact same photos and she perked up and said that was it. Gah, 3-year-olds.

We had nothing better to do with our day, so walked back to the car to attempt Tunnel Park. But there was one more strop to be had on the way. It involved this stick:

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Look how optimistic she is in this photo. Surely, someone is going to help her carry this giant stick back to the car. Someone in a parental vein, maybe?

Sorry duckling, no. Never collect anything bigger than yourself unless it’s a statue of David Tennant made out of chocolate. We made her leave the stick. The resulting scene was ugly.

Fortunately, a small miracle happened. We drove a few minutes to Bisterne Avenue and, for once, Mummy and Daddy had got it right. For this was Tunnel Park! She was immediately happy:

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And Nathan took the opportunity for a quick nap:

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Before spending some time perfecting his “Sherlock on Dartmoor” pose:

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Eva enjoyed a good play – there was a shark for her to jump on (she didn’t get the reference), a pirate ship, a zip wire to fall off and some nice natural play features.

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There’s also a wild bit at the back, just in case she hadn’t had enough nature for a day. She could have climbed all day but dagnam, we still hadn’t had coffee. Time to roll down the hill to Lot 107.

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We were pretty much reenacting the last day we had spent without Reuben – hanging out in Wood St, playing on the pirate ship then going to the cafe for coffee. It’s now going to be our “day without Reuben” cafe, and our “day without Reuben” park. Sorry Roo. Sucks to be at school.

Lot 107 is a lovely cafe. It was full of parents and children and has a kids’ menu, so you feel totally welcome, unlike another cafe in the Wood Street area I’m not going to mention. Eva insisted on a highchair and enjoyed a sausage sandwich with Ribena:

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There’s everything you need for toddler visits – a changing table, plastic plates and cutlery, lots of highchairs. And toys! After she’d picked the sausage out of her sandwich, we went into the garden at the back and she joined a small boy in playing with some cars. She chose one that she said was “our car” and it was actually pretty close:

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The outdoor space isn’t huge, but it has about four picnic tables in and will be lovely for summer. The staff were all super-friendly and it was definitely an easy dining experience. It pays to be child-friendly in this bit of Walthamstow, I think…

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(As an aside, I just went onto Twitter and saw that “Ruth Rendell dies” is trending. Oh good grief, I was talking about her just up there ^^. Is it just me, or is that weird??)

Anyway, spookiness aside it was a fun morning out. Then we went to Chingford, entirely pointlessly, so let’s skim over that. The bluebells will be wilting soon so get down there in the next few days if you want to see the spectacle of nature. Alternatively, if you have an ungrateful child you can just skip the woods and go straight to Tunnel Park…

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Posted in Token attempts at fresh air (parks) | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

May Mayhem

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Yes, May is almost upon us, which means I have a very nearly 3-year-old. She’s been gearing up to be 3 for a long time, what with the constant questions and the whinge button stuck on, but this means I may actually not have a toddler anymore. The blogging implications are terrifying.

So I’m going to gloss over them and instead tell you about some fun things to do in May and June.

Starting with something on Roo’s birthday….there’s a theme here. The Union Chapel in Islington plays host to a silly six piece that goes by the name of “Mrs H and the Sing Along Band“. It’s a free family event, and promises “tomfoolery and theatrical delights”. I like tomfoolery. 14th June at 3pm.

Next up, the launch of a new community space this weekend in Walthamstow. Part of the “Blackhorse Village” redevelopment, Gnome House will be home to a cafe, a printmaking workshop and community rooms for hire. And they’re having a party to celebrate! Saturday 2nd May, 2pm-11pm. It gives you something to do while your pet geek is busy claiming their free comic books…I think my boys are hitting Forbidden Planet together. Nathan is so proud.

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For whimsical toddler fun, the live show of “Ben &Holly’s Little Kingdom” is heading back to London this May, hitting the Richmond Theatre on May 23rd-24th. It looks lovely, and is from the producers of “Peppa Pig’s Big Splash” so should be a hit with your small ones. The same weekend sees the first ever Geronimo Festival up north in Tatton Park, Cheshire. It’s full of CBeebies favourites, like ICanKaty, Mr Bloom and CBeebiesAlex. Get tickets now before they sell out!

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Also, the delightful Mrs McMoon is back on tour with her madcap biscuit-baking – she hits the artsdepot in North Finchley on 10th May and the Polka Theatre, Wimbledon on 16th and 17th May. I hear her friend Signor Baffo is also swinging by Brentford on 31st May. For more information on both productions, have a look here.

You also have a few more chances to go to a Big Fish Little Fish rave before they pack up the Fishmobile and head out to the festivals for the summer. There are three upcoming parties – Shapes in Hackney on May 10th, The Bedford in Balham on May 17th and Paperworks, SE1 on June 14th. You know where to book.

Meanwhile, if all this May is sounding too much for you and you can’t face the thought of 31 days of it, why not try “May in a Day” at Cecil Sharp House? Combining English and Brazilian folk traditions, there should be music, maypole dancing and merriment. And possibly an ox of some sort. I’m unclear on that point. It’s 9th May, from 2pm-5pm.

And don’t forget that LWAT favourite The Dish and the Spoon is back in action and open this Bank Holiday Monday as usual. Get on down there and try the triple layer chocolate and vanilla cake…it’s even gluten free. Yum.

Have a lovely bank holiday!

 

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The Idol, Barking – 17/04/15

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What “keywords” do you look for in the description of a soft play? “Spacious”? “Natural Light”? “Coffee on tap”? How about “sinister”? That was the description of The Idol soft play in Barking, by its Turner-nominated designer Marvin Gaye Chetwynd.  To put it in context, she called the play area “a bit more bling and glam than usual, and a bit sinister, too”. So only a bit sinister. That’s alright then. If the juxtaposition of soft play and gothic blackness wasn’t enough for you to get your head round, there’s that slightly random location. Barking, centre of high art? Who’d have thought it? But my Barking mole, who accompanied us on this trip, tells me that there’s quite a blossoming art scene developing around there, and there’s certainly a bit of renovation in the town centre. Have a look at the new police station:

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And part of the redevelopment is the £14m new leisure centre, the Abbey Leisure Centre, which is where The Idol resides. bk2

 

You can’t really tell once you’re inside, but the structure is in the shape of a giant cyborg, based on the Dagenham Idol, who’s a prehistoric wooden statue. Confused? You will be. It’s art. But it’s also a fully functioning soft play, albeit one in striking shades of black, white and grey rather than the usual primary colours. Bunny’sMummy had had the foresight to dress in matching monochrome, something I nearly did myself (but my black and white stripy top was in the wash). We would have looked totally cool if we’d been matching. She even had a monchrome coffee, to demonstrate her commitment to the theme.

I also tried to dress Eva in black and white but she resisted. I think the resulting outfit was respectably artistic though:

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Ignore the socks. And let’s not even mention Reuben, whose neon yellow t-shirt totally clashed. But so did all the other kids. In fact the presence of multi-coloured-dressed children romping around it did rather detract from the Tim Burton look of the whole thing. The soundtrack – Eminem and Mylo – did its best to install a menacing vibe but it’s never going to be quite as artistic with small people all over it. The bright pink and orange signs with the Idol characters on them also didn’t quite go. But then, I don’t understand art. I really don’t

Essentials then – it’s about a fiver to get in and you’re given 2 hours’ play. There’s a cafe, which is not unreasonably priced and a selection of kids’ box meals, which come super-hot (beware!). There are some adult options too, but not loads of sandwich choice when we went. There’s space to park buggies but nowhere to put shoes (this is fast becoming a pet peeve of mine). And it’s black, Very, very black. You might imagine the Velvet Underground and Nico hanging out in the on these black steps:

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…or you may just be reminded of that Batman line from “The Lego Movie” about only working in black, or very dark grey.  But there’s a splash of light too, in the pure whiteness of the ballpool. I can’t be the only one wondering how long those balls will stay white with ketchuppy toddlers about. They also had one of the ball-hovering things that the kids love so much:

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In the centre of the frame, there’s a huge drop slide, made all the more terrifying for the way it plunges you into black oblivion. The step up to it is sealed off unless there’s a staff member there, as I think it’s for over 6s only. Roo probably could have got onto it but he was a bit scared, as was I.

It’s pretty fun and it wasn’t too busy when we went. There did seem to only be one or two staff members doing everything between them (admission, taking food orders, cooking, serving!) so it could probably do with a bit more managing. But it’s definitely a valuable addition to Barking. And we found a street piano on the way home, which is always a bonus:

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And more monochrome:

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Seems that Barking is getting ever more stylish. Just make sure you dress to match…

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Tea at the Furchester – 10/04/15

 

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Now, this was an exciting trip out. I’d been bribing Reuben with it all week long and by the time Friday came around, all three of us were hugely overexcited. Friday morning turned into a spontaneous rolling playdate, so it was with minutes to spare that I was throwing clothes around my room, looking for something respectable to wear to a posh Mayfair hotel. Or at least to distract from the three giant scars I had given myself on my forehead (it’s not just toddlers that have snaggly nails). I found a creased blue dress and a green cardigan, put them on and ran downstairs to make sure the children were ready and not in any kind of trouble. Optimistic, I know.

“Why did you get changed Mummy? Roo wanted to know

I explained that I wanted to look like I’d dressed up a bit.

“Ooh yes, you’ve dressed up as Cookie Monster!”he giggled “Do I need to dress up as well? Like Furnella?”

“Tookie Monster! Tookie Monster! I want to be Phoebe!” yelled Eva.

And  no-one everyone wonders why I don’t write a style blog…

Let’s skip on. I feel like I might disappoint a few people by revealing that our Furchester afternoon tea was a press event to launch the new episodes and new range of plush toys. It’s not actually a bookable activity. But it so should be! Mayfair Millenium Hotel, you have a serious business opportunity here…

For that’s where we were. I’d convinced Roo that the Furchester monsters had taken over the back of someone else’s hotel to set up their own because this whole reading thing kinda scuppers some of my sneakier mummy ploys. So he was happy that we were at the actual Furchester, even if the signs said something different. And when he and Eva saw the room full of Furchester toys, they didn’t need much more convincing. Here’s Eva with her new best friend, the aformentioned Tookie Monster.

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Sorry Bunny, you’ve been replaced. You should try being more blue and fluffy. Reuben left with a giant Phoebe, which he’s also in love with. She’s busy making friends with BatBear right now.

The toys are rather lovely. Big and plush and cuddly, there are Elmo, Cookie Monster and Phoebe varieties. I’ll get the disclaimer over with now and say we got ours for free but these opinions really are honest and my own. I’d be very tempted to add to the collection – there are smaller figures of Fergus and Furnella and even an Isabel. I love Isabel. I know I have a fairly basic sense of humour, but I laugh at that pun every time. Here’s a smaller Cookie Monster:

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All ready to hug! More on the Adventures of Phoebe and Tookie Monster later but first, there’s afternoon tea to deal with. While the kids sat and watched the new episode – and wondered whether they would be brave enough to take a teddy from a sleeping tiger – the piles of cakes and sandwiches came out. Us parents may have snuck a few when the kids weren’t looking, I’ll be honest. But how could we not when they looked so good?:

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Eva never eats much anyway, and she was further distracted by the appearance of the Furchesters themselves. Who wants to be welcomed with furry arms? Everyone!

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And that’s the actual voice of Furnella there! I was so impressed. Please dear readers, forgive all this smugbloggery. And enjoy this picture of Roo with the actual Elmo:

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Ah yes, that’s a flattering one. The kids enjoyed it so much, I really think someone needs to start throwing Furchester tea parties on a regular basis. And seeing as the Millenium Mayfair already do a very lovely afternoon tea, they probably should. They even do a kids’ variation with peanut butter and jam sandwiches, and little pots of jelly on the top. The jelly was pretty much the only thing that Eva ate. But Reuben made the most of it, downing sandwiches, scones, cakes and a couple of glasses of smoothie. Which, incidentally, led us to check out the super-fancy toilets:

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Eva did agree to drink a tea cup of milk. I think she likes the idea of afternoon tea, even if she was a bit too excited to eat more than jelly and a strawberry:

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But that left the lemon curd and scones for me. More fool her:

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Now, this trip was worth a bit of stress and, indeed, violating several of my own LWAT rules about travelling in Central London with a buggy. When I planned it, Eva was going to be on her scooter which makes step-free access less vital but she was tired and flaky and we seemed to need a lot of stuff. Given that we left the hotel with even more stuff (bathrobes! giant toys! CBeebies magazines!) the buggy was probably a good idea. But travelling home in rush hour wasn’t such a good idea. It rarely is.

We’d arrived at Bond Street, which has a few steps from platform to street level, but going home I decided to go for Green Park because not only was it completely step-free, it was also handily positioned on the line to Walthamstow. Unfortunately, these handy things make it a very popular station and we were not the only people trying to get on a Victoria Line train during rush hour. We managed to squeeze onto the second train to come in, by walking to the far end of the platform and being a bit bolshy. Then we pretty much folded ourselves into negative space and tried not to breathe out too much. At Euston, someone vacated the fold-down seats and that meant we could get the buggy and Reuben into that space quite comfortably. But Eva and Tookie Monster were feeling a bit unsure about their personal space:

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Phoebe, however, was making herself useful by pointing out tube stops on the map with her hair:

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Did I mention a particularly lovely fountain we passed on the way? No? Was there any way to fit it in? No? Well, let’s slip it in now while me and the kids are sweating on the tube at Highbury & Islington:

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Mayfair is so pretty. Commuter’s armpit not so pretty.

Anyway, we got home eventually and since then we’ve been busy showing the new toys a good time. Like going swimming:

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and being abandoned next to a slide at Passover:

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but at least we observed good car safety:

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The kids were Furchester fans before this, but it’s safe to say that, like the Furchesters, they’ll never give up watching it now…

Actual Disclaimer: We received gift and entertainment in return for this review. All opinions remain honest and my own.

Posted in Cake and the finest wines known to humanity (eating out) | Tagged , , | 1 Comment

Picnicking at the Barbican – 05/04/15

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As you can tell, the Easter weekend was pretty fun-packed for us. So much so that it’s taken me the entire week to recover write it up. Easter Sunday itself was spent at church but what to do to mark such a special day? Well, setting the aside the madness of an all-age service, how about a picnic? It was sunny, after all. And the City has one prime picnicking spot – the Barbican.

It may not be to everyone’s taste. You have to have some love for brutalist, Clockwork Orange-type architecture and multiple unfenced water features, but it’s a good space to hang out, especially on a deserted Easter Sunday. When we lunched there a few weeks back with Auntie Savage, it was full of not just suits on their lunch break but also an entire graduation ceremony. We had to share benches and make conversation with strangers. This time, the only strange people we were making conversation with were the ones we’d brought with us.

On the way, there was the opportunity to spot a sheep…in fact, there were two sheep. We’d already bagged the Pearly King Shaun at Liverpool Street, but the Barbican has its very own one as well:

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I think this might be another project that we fail to see through. Like the book benches.

Getting back to the picnic, the kids had lots of fun. Specifically, giving me a cardiac arrest every time they ran towards one of the fountains:

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Normally, they’re fairly easy to contain but they’d had a Smarties egg each at church and so were full of sugar and buzziness. Reuben wanted to go right to the edge and climb over the “stepping stones”, which were in various states of disrepair. It was a bit more than my nerves could take, but luckily he found a fearless intern to take him on adventures:

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Look how sunny it was! Sunglasses and everything! In the actual summer, I believe they have ping pong tables there as well, so that could be a fun diversion…or just result in lots of soggy and missing ping pong balls. Even without the tables, there was enough to entertain the kids…as long as you have a nerve of steel, or an intern to help.

(Just to clarify, she’s interning with the church, not LWAT. If only I had my own intern…)

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We carved an entire chicken, shared a jar of pickled onions and much merriment was had. When the kids finally hit meltdown, we walked back through the Barbican and Reuben suddenly had a rare burst of long-term memory. He wanted to go to the “room with the rain in” and he remembered where it had been, despite me telling him it wasn’t there any more. So, he ran into the Curve, looking for the rain and found….a slow moving canoe. I don’t understand art. So, they chased the canoe and came back out the other end. At that point, Eva got a second wind of energy and scampered off, shouting “I don’t want to hold hands! I want to run! I want to run! Oh…I can’t run”.

That lasted well, then. Luckily the scooter was on hand and on the way back to Liverpool Street, she had the chance to scoot across some gloriously empty city plazas (like the one at City Point). On a Friday, that was heaving with people in suits talking about amalgamations but on Easter Sunday we had it to ourselves. So that’s the top tip for finding some space in London – visit the City on festive days…

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Hackney Downs – 04/04/15

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This weekend two things close to my heart celebrated their first birthday – one was Disco 2000, the indie night for aged parents, and the other one was Boby, cheerful daughter of Bob and Not-Bob. It was the second one of those that called us to Hackney and after a few hours playing with Boby’s toys, we took the opportunity to check out the local park. I can’t begin to count the number of times we’ve been to Hackney Downs station but we’ve never been to the place that gives the station its name. A project that’s brewing in my head requires me to rectify this.

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And it’s an interesting park. A big sandpit, a wooden fort and a mosaic of zoo animals. Eva liked the animals too and performed a little dance on the “stage” in front of them. It was made by local people, including the very East London-sounding “Tess of Spitalfields”:

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I wonder what you need to do to be able to affix a place name to your name these days. It used to be all the rage. Now, I’m just stuck with a surname that suggests a far greater skill in hatmaking than I possess. Well, whoever Tess is, I like her. And she has mad mosaic making skills too. Here’s Reuben admiring them:

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So, what else was there to do? Well, the fort was fun although there was a bit of toddler congestion on the rope bridge. Eva very slowly and cautiously walked over it with me, a queue of similarly cautious children building up behind her. Then she got scared at the top of the slide and turned around back over the bridge. It was a bit painful. Roo, meanwhile, had found a short cut to the slide:

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And Eva found some slides that were so tiny that not even she could be scared:

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There was also what appeared to be a monolith in the sandpit, reminiscent of the scene at the start of “2001″. My children provided the ape-like behaviour to go with it:

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Reuben also enjoyed some big-boy swinging on the net swing. You can tell by the angle of this that Daddy was in charge:

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While Eva had a meltdown because she wanted to go on the baby swings. Then when another toddler kindly up a swing for her, it was the wrong one. She’d had some rainbow cake a few hours before and this was the inevitable fallout. It was time to go home. But first, there was just time to pose in the rock garden on the way out:

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Oh, they can be cute sometimes. And it’s amazing how she can put a tantrum behind her when there’s a camera about…

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Owls Play Centre – 03/04/15

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Now, those of you who know Eva IRL will know that owls are something of a theme for her. I think it started with an owl dress and spiralled into t-shirts, decor and snack boxes. So, sooner or later we had to visit the Owls Play Centre in Fairlop Waters. That sooner became a soggy Good Friday, when I ignored my plug for Easter Bounce and set up off with Nathan and the kids for the dryness and serenity of Fairlop.

Only it wasn’t that serene. And bits of it weren’t dry, but there was a man on hand to deal with it, disinfectant in hand. I don’t know why I expected it to be quiet – I think that maybe friends have visited during the school day and described it as such. Clearly, the first day of the Easter holidays wasn’t going to be like that. So, we had to wait a few minutes to get in and were told to strictly observe the 2-hour limit. Not a problem, as we’d already imposed a 2-hour limit on ourselves by choosing the £1.30 option of parking (up to 2 hrs) rather than the £3 all-day option. That was on the basis that if we needed another 2 hours, it’d still be cheaper than paying £3. But unless you flawlessly co-ordinate the parking times and session times, you’re going to lose out somehow. If you do attempt the flawless manoevure, session times start at the hour and half past. Good luck to you.

I was quite surprised we had to pay for parking at all, as we were kinda in the countryside. It was certainly a long way past the North Circular and the wide roads had a distinctively Essex feel to them. Yet, we were right by a tube station (Fairlop on the Central Line) and London buses were driving past. It seems we were just in a particularly bulky part of Zone 4, despite the play centre being in the middle of a Country Park. All very confusing.

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Anyway, we got in and it was packed. An array of brightly coloured tables sat in front of the playframe and not a single one was free. We compiled our belongings in a big pile in a corner and looked around in vain for the kids we’d come in with. They’d long gone, exploring the climbing frames and slides. There was a section that was perfectly sized for Eva – the 2-5s zone – so, naturally, she’d ignored it and was scrambling to the top of the main frame before losing her nerve and crying for Mummy. Once again, I wished for an emergency softplay exit. And some dignity.

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It was while I was rescuing Eva that two things happened. First, that I had a text from Nathan saying he’d found a table but our stuff was still piled in a corner. Secondly that I ran into Reuben, who needed the toilet. Again, my kingdom for a short cut. It was complicated but we managed to get girl out, boy to toilet, stuff moved and table retained with nothing more than a Spiderman mask to save it. Once we were settled on a table, I could start to relax…at least until Eva got herself stuck again, which wasn’t long. Still, I had The Boy buying me coffee and all would be well. I’m not sure how Owls could do things differently as far as tables go – there’s no space to put any more in and it’s natural that every parent there will want to a) sit down and b) drink coffee. But they could really do with some kind of place to put kids’ shoes. Maybe there was one and I never found it, but the number of shoes scattered about the place suggested not. There was also a bit of a wait for coffee as there was only one person serving but when it came, it was much appreciated.

I’m sounding negative. I shouldn’t be. It was actually a very nice soft play – clean, modern and full of kitschy little design quirks like these mushrooms:
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It’s just that one or two tweaks (more staff, somewhere to stash stuff, a more co-ordinated parking system) would elevate it to an awesome soft play. The kids definitely enjoyed it:

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Although Reuben found himself playing in the baby area, building a wall of tessalating bricks and then complaining when the babies had the nerve to knock it down:

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Eva was also delighted by the appearance of her BFF Bunny, which brightens up any of her days. Bunny came in the session after ours but made up for lost time by disappearing with Eva straight away, giggling to themselves and shedding decorative bits of their clothes. If anyone found a button at Owls on Friday, do let me know and I’ll pass it on to the BunnyParents.

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I can’t say it was an overly relaxing experience but that’s our damnfoolfault for going on a rainy bank holiday. The coffee and cake were good and I’d imagine on a weekday, when it was stripped of the bigger kids it would be very pleasant indeed. I wish we’d had time to explore Fairlop Waters itself but the parking didn’t really allow for that, unless we’d paid for all day….and I’m not sure how much exploring there is to do. Maybe we’ll take the tube next time and play and wander at our leisure. While Roo’s at school, obviously.

More information here (official website)

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Easter Holiday Japes

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Here in Waltham Forest, we are screeching into the Easter holidays mere hours before Good Friday. I appreciate that some of you have been on holidays all week but we’ve barely had time to put the PE kit in the wash. If you’re the same, here are some fun things you can do to fill in that full two weeks post-Bank Holiday. It’s a long time.

Anyhoo, first up a bouncy fun day for Good Friday. Chingford-based company JS Bouncy Castle & Party Hire are hosting the party, which may or may not be rainy (doesn’t it always rain on Good Friday?) at Chingford Rugby Club. We’re planning to go if it doesn’t rain and maybe if it does. Wristbands cost £7 for over-5s and £4 for under-5s which allows them to run riot on bouncy castles and inflatable slides. If you fancy something more spiritually minded for such an important Christian calendar date, there’s a full scale passion play on in Trafalgar Square at both 12:00 and 15:15. Sadly, I think my heathen children will prefer the bouncy castles.

And now for something completely different… the MiniBox festival in Shoreditch. If reggae nursery rhymes and a craft village appeal to you and your hipster child, get down to Shoreditch on 8th April. But be quick..it’s only on from 3-5. And it’s free. Woohoo! Meanwhile, in Peckham on the 12th April Nimble Arts are hosting the second ever Indiepop Tots event, playing the kind of music we listened to as stroppy teenagers and now want to introduce our kids too. Sadly, I am otherwise engaged but one day we shall make it to South London and shake our booty to Belle and Sebastian.

There’s more toddler-dancing action at Big Fish Little Fish, who are throwing a “MadHatters Tea Party” in Balham on 19th April. The last Balham party was super fun so you should definitely check it out. I hear exciting things are brewing in the BFLF camp, including festivals and comedy…so check out their brand new website for updates!

Or how about some exciting kids’ theatre? It’s totally not in the Easter holidays, but I hear there’s a production of “Rapunzel” at the Redbridge Drama Centre that should appeal to all fans of “Tangled”, or just girls like Eva who like long, blond wigs. It’s on 30th April and tickets are £6. Landing more solidly in the Easter holidays is “Big Red Bath” on 17th April at the Half Moon Theatre, Limehouse. It’s about a big, red bath I believe and is recommended for the under 6s. On a grander scale, “Tree Fu Tom Live” is swooping Londonwards, with an Uxbridge show on 17th April as well. There will copious amounts of Big World Magic. I’m also very tempted by the English National Ballet’s “My First Ballet” for my dance-loving girl. It’s got to be better than Angelina Ballerina. It’s on at the Peacock Theatre from now until 12th April.

Of course, if this is all too much effort, just come to church with us on Sunday and eat some chocolate. Look at Eva last year:

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Aww, mullety girl!

Happy Easter everyone! 

 

 

 

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Windy Woodford

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Until recently, Woodford was just a giant unknown to me, despite its proximity to my house. It’s impressive in that it has two tube stations to its name but what else is there? Well, we’ve been on a mission to find out.

To be completely honest, we were actually on a mission to pick up some daffodils. I’d got in from work to find a “Sorry we missed you” card and a florist’s address is South Woodford. Sensing an opportunity for adventure, I picked up Roo and we battled a gale-force wind to see what lay in store in the store. This isn’t going to be a surprise – it was some daffodils. I said that already. But I was surprised, as I really wasn’t expecting them and they turned out to be a thank you from someone for humiliating them in song in front of everyone they’ve ever met. What most people would class as bullying, Shirley clearly thinks is worthy of a floral thank you. Any time, Shirlz. Really.

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What we didn’t expect to find were some giant daffodils twice the size of Reuben, and other assorted flowers. I think Eva would really like these:

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South Woodford seems to be full of cute little things – antiques shops that look like beach huts, a tube subway that’s echo-y and good for running through and the world’s most sparsely populated KFC. Roo wanted McDonalds, but that’s only for special occasions dontcha know? I’d vaguely mentioned a playground but there didn’t seem to be any of those about, so fast food and big flowers had to do instead. Besides, the weather was crazy-assed today. The aforementioned galeforce wind didn’t really let up much all the time we were out and was occasionally accompanied by torrential rain and hail. Though by the time we were back on the bus, the hail had given way to a rainbow. Like I said, crazy-assed.

It wasn’t my first trip to South Woodford, oh no. That had been an illicit trip to Waitrose with Mrs Rabitt. Illicit mainly because we only had one of our collective four children and at least one of us was meant to be doing some work. But they had a lovely coffee shop there and served tea in pretty willow print teapots. Eva had a gingerbread wand:

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Totally worth the danger. I also bought cake to take home. See, danger.

I also took the kids to the other bit of Woodford that’s on the other side of the North Circular. There we found a park called Elmhurst Gardens that isn’t the motorway verge that Google Maps suggests it is. In fact, it’s a spacious park with some comedy animals to ride:

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You can tell from this photo that the weather wasn’t much cheerier that day either. Nor was it when we passed through Woodford on the way to the Discover Centre. The sun may always shine on TV but it doesn’t always shine in E18. Maybe we’ll revisit the park during the summer as it’s really a nice space:

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I feel there’s more to discover in Woodford yet. I haven’t yet mentioned the Shepherds Bakery on Snakes Lane East that does a lovely hot and cheap sausage roll. But maybe I won’t mention it, or you might all get there and snaffle them before I get another chance to…

 

 

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