“A Night at the Pictures” at Wood Street Indoor Market

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Walthamstow is full of surprises. There’s an evening disco for ageing indie kids, an Acoustic Massive that apparently accepts any old blogger and now there’s a haddock-slapping theatre company who want to entertain you in an old cinema. The show is “A Night at the Pictures”, the old cinema is the Wood Street Crown – now the Wood Street Indoor Market – and the theatre company is Slap Haddock, who I first met at the Plaza Park opening party.

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But first we were meeting Tammy and Jake for a play in the aforementioned Plaza Park. We did that for a few minutes before the unspringlike drizzle drove us inside the market to kill a few minutes. It’s a bit strange in there at the moment.  Developers have bought half of it and are turning it into flats, so there are few businesses left open on that side. I know property prices are booming in Walthamstow at the moment but this kind of development always strikes me as particularly short – sighted.  The reason Walthamstow is popular is because of its individuality. ..Take away all the little independent shops and drive up the rents and you may find that no one wants to live in “trendy Wood St” anymore. Unless they’re a viking who needs some chain mail from the viking shop. That’ll never go, right?

So, we explored the market while we could and found a couple of fellow Acoustic Massivers in the process of moving a shop, and the “Toy Shack”, which Tammy warned me sold “grown up mens’ toys”. Ooh-err. Thankfully, it turned out to be collectables and figurines and they had a stack of vintage annuals in the shop, which were for inspiration rather than sale. As well as selling toys, they also designed them and were in the process of designing some 2000AD toys. Nathan would be most impressed.

With all this wandering and socialising (and I’d really like to come back without the kids to look around the vintage clothes shops) it was almost time for the show to begin. We gathered at the front, where some ushers in vintage uniforms chatted to us and tried to blag snacks off the kids. It was a lot like the ushers I knew when I worked in the cinema. There was the cheeky one, the clueless one and the ones who were most concerned about the house rules (clean hands, no chewing gum on the seats, no entry to children who were part skeleton).

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And this being a theatre production , they naturally broke into song at the first opportunity (again, that was a lot like my own cinema experience):

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And with that, we were led inside to what used to be the Crown cinema and was reopening for one last film. We crammed into a tiny room to watch a “documentary” about the site and the Wood Street film studios (actually the actors through a window) and then the projector broke and so the “staff” had to improvise some entertainment. Again, this wasn’t far off reality….I had some ‘nam-types flashbacks to the third night that “Lord of the Rings” was out.

Of course, it was all part of the plan and we were led out of the room around the market to meet various stars of the silent era – a film noir detective on the trail of a missing dancer, a mad scientist, a starlet and a cowboy who specialised in death scenes. A lot of the film references were lost on the small kids (“I made men into apes and sent them to a planet”) but the adults appreciated them. There was a lot of banter with the audience and improvisation – one of the ushers performed potted versions of “Titanic” and “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” at the request of the crowd. One Daddy even got to play a cowboy himself, and I think he enjoyed it almost too much.

It was a great use of the space – the gap between units became a dark alley to follow the detective down, an office turned into a laboratory while we were looking the other way -  and the constant moving kept anyone from getting restless, even Reuben. There was always something new to engage with and the performance was very intimate at times…I’m thinking of the ending song, where I was pretty much standing under the accordionist’s armpit. It was charming, silly and funny and managed to convey some actual information as well as a lot of made-up stuff (I assume) in a fast-paced and interesting way. Reuben, Jake and Eva enjoyed it, chuckling at the cowboy’s antics and chasing the detective from place to place, although Roo was a bit freaked out by the mad scientist bit and suddenly burst into tears saying “I don’t want to change!”. I assure him that, seeing as he hadn’t drunk the potion, he should be OK.

We wandered back out into the daylight, clutching our free popcorn and went in search of lunch. We considered Cafe Bonito, which looked very cool (records on the wall, Spanish menu) but the kids were after chips and they didn’t do them. So, Moonlight Cafe it was then:

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For the princely sum of £7.80, me and the kids got sausages and chips and drinks which was a bit of a bargain. They even had a little garden, on the way to the toilets. Reuben was only there for a minute or so but managed to befriend an ant, which he carried inside and put on his chips to “see if he wanted to eat them”. We had a short and sharp discussion on the role of insects and food areas before Anty was returned to the wild:

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Then just one more play in Plaza Park. Mummy hit the wall, but Eva just conquered the wall:

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“A Night at the Pictures” is only on for one more day (3 performances) so get down to Wood Street and see it! It’s funny, it’s free and you might even learn something. Did I mention that the troupe put on a free show at a local retirement home? What lovely folk and you should definitely support them. More details here.

 

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Some More Random Parks…(Mostly in East London)

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I’ll admit we haven’t been up to much lately – I’m still recovering a bit from the epic LWAT 300 weekend, where we hit almost every E postcode in the matter of a few days. Just thinking about it makes me tired. So, this half term we’re taking things slowly and trying not to get wet shoes every day. If you’re venturing out, why not check out the Rainy Day Guide I wrote just before Eva was born. Gosh, that seems a long time ago now…

But let’s turn our mind to sunnier things because as recently as last week, I  was worrying about sun cream and bountiful water supplies rather than worrying about the bountiful water supplies stored in the turn-ups of my jeans. We’ve been to a whole load of new parks – a lot of them in our new East London hood – and I thought I’d do a round-up of them here, instead of giving each one its own post. Quite frankly, some of them we only visited for a few minutes because I was busy stressing about an invoice or something but we got a few pics.

Let’s start in North London, with Chestnuts Park, Haringey. I only went there briefly with T’s Mum and T but isn’t it nice? So colourful and spacious, with one of those wobbly swing things where four kids can swing at once. There was a cafe there too, and it’s not far from Green Lanes where you can buy authentic Turkish apple tea – one of my favourite things. Of course, I have my tech support monkey trained to visit Turkey every so often to bring apple tea back for me, so don’t tell him that I can get it in N16. It might take away his sense of purpose in life.

 

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Dipping (barely) south of the river, here’s a park that we’ve been to plenty of times but never mentioned. It’s Little Dorrit Park, just around the corner from Roo’s old childminder in Borough and it has a climbing frame in the shape of a train:

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The literary-minded among you might notice a Dickens reference in the park’s name. That’s not really surprising, given that Charles Dickens lived nearby…and in fact, you’d be hard pressed to find a road, pub or school that wasn’t named after him in some way.  It’s not a huge park, but it has a toddler climbing frame, a bigger frame, a roundabout and a little bit of green space for picnicking. It’s very handy in a not overly green bit of London. As a bonus, you have Subway  Borough Market on hand for picnic food.

And so to the East. Since I started writing this post, I’ve managed to add another random park to our repetoire – it’s Coronation Gardens, in Leyton. Conveniently located next to Leyton Orient’s stadium and, more pertinently, the walk-in medical centre contained within its walls. Perfect for those toddler emergencies. Look, here’s Reuben enjoying the maze at well-past-bedtime o’clock today:

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Don’t ask.

There was another maze in Chingford Memorial Park, which we visited for literally 15 minutes in between a giant work crisis and the school run:

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Still, it looked nice and we’ll go back soon. Unlike a lot of Waltham Forest parks, it also has toilets. Bonus!

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And then there’s the newly refurbished Vincent Rd park in Highams Park, which always excites Roo due to the “blue grass”.

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He means the astroturf stuff, rather than a group of country and western musicians…but I think you’d probably worked that one out. The blue grass is very pretty but does have a tendency to give you a static shock when you open the gate after standing on it. Be warned. The park has been fitted out in that wooden style that’s so popular at the moment, but has retained an older-style metal climbing labyrinth:

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There’s also some sensory boards, although the musical ones seem to have died already, and a collection of large white rocks that Reuben calls dinosaur eggs. And a climbing wall, randomly enough. The park’s right next to the stream and there is a hole in the fence for kids to climb through, so worth keeping an eye out.

We’ve also been back to Victoria Park, which has some new water-play features (and no, I wasn’t prepared). Last time we went it all still looked a bit under construction, so I thought I’d get some updated photos:

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And yes, it’s still full of ironic-hatted Dads. Of course it is – it’s Hackney.

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Finally, in case all of these parks seem a bit civilised for your liking, why not take a trip out to The Highams Park? There’s woodland, a massive lake with geese and ducks and a small playground:

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The main attraction for kids though is the forest in which you can completely lose yourself, even though it’s only ten minutes from the station. I say it’s an attraction for kids – I was, naturally, petrified and rapidly updating my Facebook status so that someone would know where we were and be able to find us…or at least recover the bodies. You might not fear the forest as much as I do but either way, pack sensible shoes.

Eva’s squealing so I’ll end there. There are still so many parks in London to visit so there may be more of these random round-ups. I’m sure you’re thrilled.

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Big Fish Little Fish in Hackney – 18/05/14

 

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Hands in the air! It’s our third trip to Big Fish Little Fish and this time it seems to have found a natural home in a warehouse in Hackney. Why such a good fit? Well the warehouse gave it that real illicit edge that made Nathan wonder if it was 2am rather than 2pm and whether we were, in fact, back in 1995. And as for Hackney – well, it’s full of hipster Dads, who love to throw ironic shapes with their ironic toddlers while wearing retro hats (you’re wondering whether it’s the Dads or the toddlers wearing the hats, aren’t you? I’ll let you guess…) So, it’s a great fit and I can’t believe they haven’t been there before.

It was a sweltering day, reminiscent of the first party in Brixton, but the bigger space made it a lot less sweaty than that day. There was a bit of outdoor space, for parking buggies and eating ice lollies from the Ice Kitchen (more on that later) but the main action was inside.  There was a dancefloor, of course, a craft table, a bar and two play areas – one for the crawlers and babes in arms, the other for the bigger kids. I’ll confess now that Eva breached the baby area, but there weren’t any babies in it at the time and she was very gentle. As gentle as a 2-year-old can be.

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Reuben made a beeline for the dancefloor, where he treated us to his very special moves, before dashing off to have a look at everything else. That boy isn’t often still. By the time i’d parked the buggy up and removed Eva and her giant “dancing dress”, he’d already bagged a smoothie and had a boogie. Eva was taking things more slowly:

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It’s all a bit hazy, but here’s what we did for the next two hours or so. There was hat-making:

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Pirate tattoos:

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A motion-capture skeleton that Roo liked to make shadow puppets in front of:

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And some chilling out with ice lollies. They were really good – Nathan and I had the blueberry, yoghurt and honey ones and the kids had strawberry and cream ones. Eva took hers back onto the dancefloor because she eats so very slowly. I think we can say this is living the toddler dream:

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Sadly, she hasn’t quite mastered the ice lolly eating technique yet and only ate from one side, which caused catastrophic and inevitable collapse. Followed by catastrophic and inevitable toddler collapse. I was tempted to scoop the fallen lolly up and eat it anyway, but you’ll be glad to know I thought better of it. Instead, I took it to the Lost Children’s point:

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And yes, I did use this as a threat to Roo – if you get lost, you’ll end up in the bin. Sometimes him being able to read is so useful. Other times, not so much.

Eva got over the lolly loss pretty quickly with a Daddy-dance to The Prodigy and a play in the play tents. By 4, Roo was starting to get tired and we considered making our way home but rumours of a parachute dance perked him up again. Rightly so, because the parachute dance was super-fun. Roo stood on the stage, throwing balloons onto the canopy while helpfully tall people wafted them around for him. And me and Eva danced below:

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There was also another reason to stay – Superstar DJ Tom Middleton had taken over the decks. Now, I’d enjoyed Felix Hot Chip’s set (and Reuben liked the song about a monkey with a miniature cymbal) but Tom Middleton’s was the undoubted highlight. It started with an “In the Night Garden” version of “My Name is..” that brought a smile of recognition to Eva’s face (for the Iggle Piggle, not the Slim Shady. Probably) and was just non-stop danceability from then on in. “On a Ragga Tip”, “The Clapping Song” and Buttoned Down Disco favourite “I Wish” by Skee-lo. Eva stood on the stage playing with a glow-band bracelet and twirling while I had a dance.

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Reuben and Nathan meanwhile were colouring in the mural at the back and going crazy for “Everything is Awesome” (Reuben said “I know that song! It’s my favourite!”) A little “woo-hoo”ing to Song 2 later and it was time to go, sadly.

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But before we do, I feel like I have to issue a stark warning. No matter how much you try and immerse your kids in the music of your youth, things can go wrong. Look what I found on the mural:

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Grim stuff, kids. Mind you, a famous stalwart of the 90s indie scene recently admitting to being a bit partial to 1D so it seems like their influence is seeping in everywhere…

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After such excitement, it was time for a bit of water play to cool down. It might have been 5PM but it was still blazing hot and we were right next to the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park so why not go for a play? Well, maybe because it would result in a super-late bedtime and the kids were already tired? Pah, I scorn your logic. When it comes to choosing between the sensible thing and the fun thing, I do try and choose the sensible thing…but it doesn’t come naturally on a glorious summer’s evening when an awesome park lies just across the way. So, teatime water play it was. And it was totally worth it:

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Yes, we took her giant dancing dress off before unleashing her on the sand ‘n’water. See, I can do sensible.

Oh, and as an added bonus we found some lovely “wowers” on the way, and took some photos of Eva with them which I’m now going to gratuitously shoehorn in because she is just so darn cute:

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As Echo and the Bunnymen once said, nothing last forever and 6PM was definitely getting on time to find a random bus and get out of Stratford. We walked to the nearest stop, past eerily empty and half-finished apartments that featured yet more play areas:

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You can’t really see it because I was ushering Reuben past pretty quickly by that point. They also seemed to have the giant grass neighbours from the Southbank Festival of Neighbourhood last year.

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The getting home bit could have been smoother – the 97 to Chingford sailed by without stopping – but we’ll gloss over that and end in the sunshine of the shiny new Celebration Avenue. Hands continue to be in the air…

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LWAT is 300 – An East London Epic

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This is the 300th post on London With a Toddler. Can you Adam it? To celebrate, we decided to roam East London in search of not dodgy cockney rhyming slang, as demonstrated in the last sentence, but paddling pools, pigs and Plaistow. Which is just as well, because we’ve been East Londoners for weeks now and haven’t heard so much of a hint of cockney rhyming slang. Maybe we’re just too close to Essex – I did hear someone in Tesco talking about Chas n Dave the other day…

But I’m digressing already, and there will be plenty of digessions later on. To celebrate, we decided to travel the length of the 300 route, stopping along the way to see what we could find. We mainly found three things:

1) The 300 is a slow bus

2) The 300 is a very irregular bus

3) The 300 is not the most efficient way to get from East Ham to Canning Town.

The bus journey was partly inspired by classic London mag “Smoke”, who used the early 2000s to ride a selection of different buses of the week – the more rambling and obscure the better. Given that “rambling” and “obscure” are adjectives often applied to this blog, it seemed only appropriate to find our own slow and overly complex bus. The 300 delivered.

But let’s start a the start which, for us, was Barking. I was keen for us to drive to the start line, as that involved a quick nip round the north circular instead of a complicated TfL tussle. But parking in East Ham seemed expensive and hard to come by…I suspect due to the presence of a large football stadium that confusingly seems to be closer to East Ham than West. So the decision was taken to use the cheaper parking in Barking and then hop on the tube. As it turned out, we parked not just for cheap but for free, as we missed the car park we were aiming for and instead found this spooky deserted retail park:

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If you too want to park there, it’s called Abbey Retail Park and seems free from restrictions….but also free from most kinds of retail. Very odd. I’ll save you the suspense and let you know that our car was still there at the end of the day. We wandered round Barking a bit more than we meant to (darn misleading signs), then wandered round the station more than we meant to (darn misleading signs) and finally got to East Ham, where we found a sign that was reassuringly unmisleading:

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I hope the drivers enjoy their tea. Anyway, onto the start of the 300 route and this meant the first park of the day – Plashet Park.

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It had slides, swings, toilets that smelt as if something had died and a lot of fun climbable things.  Nathan particularly enjoyed the exercise thingy, although he wouldn’t go much further than 45 degrees from the middle point. Spoilsport!

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The sand pit looked a little sorry for itself:

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It also had a somewhat unenthusiastic bit of water play:

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Still, the kids were pretty enthusiastic about getting wet. I was hoping to keep them dry till at least lunchtime, so I steered them away repeatedly. But some other kids just dived in, and that somehow awoke the rest of the wet play area, which spurted out random jets of water for the soaking of random children. It was almost time to get on the bus, but first Eva and Nathan had a little “Titanic” moment:

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And Reuben wanted to try it out too, with slightly less success:

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They weren’t keen to leave, but we had a lot of places to visit and there would be a lot of park-leaving along the way. Interestingly, Plashet Park is on the boundary of E6 and E7…it’s interesting for me, anyway. I think I’ve collected nearly all the E-postcodes this weekend. So, goodbye to Plashet Park and onto the bus stop.

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At this point, to avoid disappointment I should make one thing clear. Nathan point-blank refused to don a pair of tiny leather pants and a red cape for the occasion, so we had to limit ourselves to bellowing “This is East Ham!” instead. And gosh, what a lot of East Ham we saw. The 300 wended its very slow way round the residential streets of the area, past the East Ham Market Hall (“bags of shopping under one roof”) and Newham Town Hall:

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And a loooot of other bits of East Ham. We went round in circles, squares and triangles and probably rectangles and squares too. I’ve never been so glad to see the A13 and with it the promise of Beckton. That’s something I never thought I’d say. But it was lovely to see Beckton Asda again – home of affordable and bountiful school uniform – and the intriguing Beckton Alps, which I’ve heard are actually mounds of toxic sludge so we didn’t stop there. Next stop – Newham City Farm!

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Now, you’d imagine that all city farms are created equal but no – this is not on the same scale as Vauxhall City Farm at all. You could fit Vauxhall into one paddock of Newham. It was expansive, green and lovely. It’s free to get in, but donations are encouraged and I completely neglected to donate. I’m sorry. Have some free advertising instead. There was a small under 8s play area and big open areas for the sheep and horses:

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Then there was a duck filled river that Eva enjoyed looking at (she’s a big fan of ducks, especially ones that are sketchily animated)

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And a chicken that Reuben named the “dino-chicken” because it looked like a dinosaur:

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And, of course, a pig’s bottom:

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Which Reuben found hilarious, obviously. He also liked stroking the donkey, seeing the rabbits and….scaring the peacocks. I’m not proud of the last bit. I said something foolish about how you make peacocks show their feathers. We moved on rapidly.

We moved on to lunch. It was ridiculously hot, just like it always seems to be when we do these crazy anniversary missions, and I was flagging. We followed the signs to the farm cafe, which took us right out of the farm and into King George V Park.

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The cafe turned out to be a little hatch, which could sell us sausage and chips for £2.50 each if we waited 10 minutes. So, we took that option and the kids went for a play:

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There was a fort-like mound in the middle, which turned out to have a path winding up it, leading to a slide:

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And the world’s noisiest roundabout, which turned with the sound of screeching ball bearings:

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I went back to collect our food but it still wasn’t ready. I was getting tetchy. More playing. An “animal adventure” for Roo in the trenches of the park and some precarious climbing of the fort from Eva.

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And then – food! I’d been hungry since we got off the bus, but Maria tells me 11:15 is not lunch time, so we’d held off till a respectable 12:15 instead. The sausages and chips didn’t last long:

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(Except Eva’s, obviously. Toddlers can make a meal last for hours. But even she ate it all in the end)

At this point we were faced with a dilemma. We’d gone so far through the farm that we were halfway to Prince Regent Lane, where we could pick up the route again. Walking down one road would get us back on the route, but with a chunk skipped out. Could we live with that? Yeah, we could. Sorry to the dockside bit with the DLR stations on it – we were getting back on that bus and going straight to Plaistow Park:

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In the few short minutes between lunch and arriving at the park, the sun had gone in and the temperature had dropped considerably. Pity, as this was where we had some water play and ice cream scheduled. Still, we never let small climate fluctuations get in the way of a good plan…

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For a long time Reuben was the only one in the pool but slowly, the Plaistow natives joined in. I’m not entirely sure they knew what to do with a paddling pool. One girl went in fully clothed, which is pretty standard stuff, and she and Roo threw sticks for each other and played fetch. But then another boy – who was well old enough to know better – tried to go in with his shoes on.  Two other boys just dumped bucketfuls of sand in there. And someone else spat their chewing gum in. Then someone jumped in with a football, and that gave his mate a great idea – why not ride a bike around the perimeter? Imagine our hilarity then, when the bike rider stopped his aquatic antics to shout “My shoes are soaking wet!”

Well yes, you were riding a bike around a paddling pool. How could wet shoes possibly surprise you?

I try not to mock children, but I was almost wetting myself laughing at him, especially as he just kept shouting “my shoes are wet!” He eventually went home to dry his shoes, and Reuben went to the sand pit. Eva had been sleeping straight through all of this, but I nipped to Tesco to get a 4 pack of Cornettos and the very mention of ice-cream was enough to wake her up:

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Awww, sleepy ice cream face! She and Roo played together in the sand for a while before we had to move on again. There were more tears and arguments…but the end was near and we needed to press on.

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Back on the 300 then! Or not. We narrowly missed the bus and the sign said it would be a full 16  minutes before the next one. We were around a mile and half from Canning Town by this point, but tired and footsore and not up for a lot of walking. On the flip side, waiting at the bus stop would involve listening to a woman rant into her phone for 16 minutes…so we walked. At least until the bus caught up with us. Just for Maria, here’s a Ukranian restaurant we saw along the way:

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We were mere metres away from Canning Town by the time the bus caught up but it somehow felt right to end the journey on the 300 itself. Besides, there was an awkward-looking dual carriageway between us and the station. So we boarded it for the last time:

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And there we were – Canning Town, almost exactly 300 minutes since we had left East Ham (you have no idea how happy that made me). But our day wasn’t quite over – there was one more thing to do while we were in the area. It meant ducking into the tube at Canning Town and going one stop south to North Greenwich.

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I like to celebrate anniversaries in style, and nothing is more stylish than some white knuckles and a cold sweat. You might remember I’m a bit scared of heights so you can imagine what a treat it was to try out the new cable car back across the river. Somewhere across town, half a stadium full of people were wearing shirts that proclaimed “Fly Emirates” and we were about to do just that.

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There was a brief moment of panic as our car stopped just before take off but  apparently it was quite standard procedure to let someone on. At least we weren’t one of the cars stopped several hundred feet over the river. We eventually got going again, and a video screen of waving South Londoners bid us goodbye in a hopefully non-final kind of a way. Across the river, North London would be waiting to greet us (Eerie life symbolism alert!), although calling Docklands North London is a bit of a stretch of the imagination. First though, there was the climb:

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Pure terror. Notice how there are no photos of my face because if there were, it would be like a Munch painting. But I relaxed a little and took in the slightly skewed version of London that was laid out before us. Basically, everything was off to the west, and most of the scenery below us was industrial wasteland but we could make out Elephant & Castle, the City and the Olympic Park. In the other direction was the Thames Barrier, which I’d never seen before, and the stretches of the Thames that go out towards the sea. A good view, but terrifying, obviously.

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We came down to land next to the Excel and decided today was not the day to check out The Crystal, a new museum right next to the terminal. It looked interesting but we were unspeakably tired and still had one DLR and a tube to get back to Barking. So, let’s skip those, and the inevitable lost-wandering around Barking when both our phones had run out of battery and so we couldn’t access Google maps. Let’s just end with the historical Barking Abbey:

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And a bee collecting pollen, next to the car:

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Nature, history, transport, technology….I think you’ll agree this post had a bit of everything. Probably too much of everything, so I’ll stop there. Happy 300th anniversary, LWAT!

 

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Some News from the LWAT World

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It’s 6 o’clock and that means one thing….it’s the news. Granted, it won’t be 6 o’clock when you read this, because 6 o’clock is also shortly before bedtime and the sounds floating down from above suggest that there’s book-ripping trouble a-brewing in Reuben’s room.

But still. The news.

Let’s start with LolliBop. A whole raft of acts have been announced since I last did an update, so hold onto your festival hats (sadly, Nathan’s festival hat got lost several moves ago) Confirmed so far are:

Justin Fletcher (Saturday & Sunday)

Mister Maker (Friday only)

Mr Bloom

CBBC’s Big Friday Wind Up stars Sam & Mark

Lazytown Live

Andy Day’s Live Show (I know from my search engine terms that there are a lot of Andy fans out there…and his Dad is so lovely)

Thomas & Friends

Chris & Pui Mini Roadshow

Scooby-Doo! The Mystery of the Pyramid

Cook and Line from Swashbuckle (Fri & Sat)

Michaela Strachan’s Really Wild Adventures Show.

Disney on Ice: 100 Years of Magic present a Silent Disco!

Southbank Centre, including music, dancing, fashion shows, DJs, pirate school, den making and takeaway crafts

Skylanders Trap Team™

Postman Pat® Mini Show,

The Roald Dahl Museum & Story Centre

Science Museum.

National Geographic Kids woodlands takeover

STOMP

Harry’s Wizard School

Bear Grylls

Beano events

Live cooking in the Lolli Kitchen

…and more to come. I know not everyone loves Justin (OK, I don’t love Justin) but word on the CBeebies street is he’s quite popular with preschoolers. And word on the mumsnet street is that Mr Bloom is quite popular with preschoolers’ mums.

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Meanwhile, there was a very special second birthday a few weeks back. No, not Eva’s (well, that too) but the Dish and the Spoon’s! A big Happy Birthday from LWAT and hope the birthday cake was suitably yummy. The Dish are also starting a children’s book exchange – if your kids have finished with their book, bring it to the Dish and you can change it for a different one! It’s a pilot scheme, so do show your support if you’re in the Nunhead/Dulwich kinda area.

(Oh, and Happy Birthday to Eva too…I guess)

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And onto news from Big Fish Little Fish..their last party before going on the festival trail is happening this Sunday in Hackney. We’ll be there, and so should you if there are still tickets left. Have a look at their website for more details.  And there’s more news from Crazy Chimps in Kennington – they’re starting a breakfast club, offering entry and breakfast for just £5 per adult and child pair. I’m actually getting liberally scattered with breakfast by Eva as I write this (see, it’s not 6 o’clock anymore…)

Lastly, here’s a very special offer from our Friend Maria at Maria Made It. I’ll let Maria herself explain it: “I’m offering a free sterling silver rope necklace, either 16″ or 18″ with any hand/fingerprint pendant ordered in May. (Order the charm through the website and use the contact me button to request the necklace in your choice of length, saving £10)” Go on readers….order now (and don’t forget to include a personal message to Maria telling her how lovely she is. Or how lovely I am. in fact, go with the second option).

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Extremes at the Horniman – 07/05/14

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Do you ever feel like the world is out to get you? Not in a gloomy “life sucks” kinda way but more like there’s a mischievous life-pixie out to confuse and disorientate you and generally just ikea it up a little. That’s what my morning felt like.

Join me, if you will, in the little concourse between platforms 1-2 and 3-4 at London Bridge. Since the renovations started at the station it’s all been a bit of a confusing mess. One time when I was there, I resorted to using National Rail Enquiries on my phone because there was no other way to find out what I needed to know. The main problem is that right at the start, you need to pick a platform. Are you 1-6 or 8-15? You don’t know? Check the screens. The screens don’t know? Ah, then you’ll need to guess.

I guessed. There was a train going to Forest Hill in ten minutes or so but neither the screens nor my amazing powers of clairvoyance were telling me where it might go from. So I picked my old faithful 1-6 …purveyors of trains to New Cross, Deptford, Lee and Greenwich. Surely Forest Hill would be in that kinda direction too?

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Well, I can’t say I wasn’t nervous. I hung around that little concourse waiting for the platform number to appear until I finally decided to give in and ask. Turns out my guess was wrong…It had been a bold roll of the SE London dice but like all gambles, it came with a risk…specifically the risk that you might have to charm your way back through the ticket barriers, get back outside, and then through another set of barriers in search of platform 7. Of course, if you’ve been paying attention you’ll have noticed a fatal flaw in these plans. There were two options – 1-6 or 8-15. I suspect that platform 7 was one of those rail-staff in jokes, like sending the work experience kid out for tartan paint.

So, gambling time again and this time I went with the other set of ticket barriers – the 8-15 side. And then onto…Where? There was still no platform number and I had less minutes left than there are jokes in Reuben’s repetoire. Time to ask again.  The next guard narrowed it down to two platforms for me, which was a step in the right direction but still not the ideal answer I was looking for, especially as the board had told that whichever platform it was, I’d have to be on the far end of it. I rolled another virtual dice (note to self:pack real dice next time) and started down platform 10, only to hear with seconds to spare that I was wrong again. 11 was the number I needed all along. After all that drama (note to self:need some actual drama in the blog at some point) you’d hope getting out at Forest Hill would be easy enough, wouldn’t you? But no, the life-pixie was at it again.

I’ll make this short and simple for you, to give you the benefit of my trial and error. Platform 1 has a step free exit. The Horniman is on the platform 1 side.  You can get there from platform 2 by using the lifts. You can skip out the confused signs, the aimless wandering and the 3 different trips in one lift. Skip all that, skip out the steep walk up Forest Mountain and go straight to the Horniman. If you like, you can keep in the bit where I sat at a street piano and calmed myself with a small burst of “Fur Elise”. That was fun.

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So we got there. And only ten minutes late for meeting Maria and Niamh, which I think they’d agree is good by our standards. The museum was eerily quiet, in contrast to the usual wall-to-wall toddler chaos. It might be because they’re refitting bits of it and the cafe was closed or maybe it was just a happy consequence of going there during term-time. Either way, it meant that for the first time we could go to the busy bees session in the garden pavilion. Normally getting hold of a few ticket involves queuing for half an hour with restless toddler in tow…hence not being very interested. This time, though, we were just handed tickets for the next session by a man in lilac trousers who I’d assume worked there. We killed a few minutes in the aquarium and then crossed the outdoor area to the garden pavilion.

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I wasn’t entirely sure what Busy Bees was, but it turned out to be a storytelling and singing session, partly curated by a monkey called Bob. The story was a whimsical little tale about the sky and the earth and I’ll be honest….I didn’t entirely follow the plot But Eva and Niamh enjoyed the puppets, the singing and the actions so I guessing plot cohesion isn’t a priority for them.

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At the end, there was a chance to handle some of the museum’s treasures, which had a loose link back to theme of the session (Earth–>gardens–>fruit and veg–>instruments made from gourds). Eva just liked the things that made noise, and getting a sticker. Then we saw a llama:

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It was lunchtime. With the cafe closed, we had to eat in the conservatory which is very pretty but does feel a little like a greenhouse in the sun. It was nice that it was so quiet though…avoiding the usual Horniman lunch scrum made for a altogether calmer experience. The options were a bit limited, but they still had sandwiches, kids lunch boxes, panini and a few hot items. Plus you can still pay by card, which is always my worry with pop up cafes. Eva’s fairly averse to anything with a nutrient in it at the moment, so she mainly ate crisps but she did bite her sandwich and spray Maria with juice from her orange so that’s a toddler’s RDA of vitamins, right?

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We were running out of time but I wanted to visit the new exhibition, “Extremes” so we did that. As you can probably guess, it’s about the extremes of life on earth – dry places, cold places, dark places. The last was presented in a somewhat creepy way (intentionally so), where you grope your way along a pitch black tunnel, feeling the outline of creatures on the wall. This being the taxidermy centre of South London, you never quite know whether the creatures are real or not (or whether they have been real at some point) so it was a bit disconcerting. But full marks for interactivity!

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The interactive exhibits continued, with Niamh’s favourite…a scale where you could measure how much water you had in your body by weighing yourself against 5l bottles of water
Conclusion was she didn’t have much because she’s quite small. I’m less small, apparently. I hate scales.

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So onto Eva’s favourite bit….a screen where you could photograph yourself against some Arctic tundras. I used the console bit to send the photo to Nathan at work, who very nearly deleted it as spam before realising that a spammer had somehow got hold of a picture of his little girl. I do love to confuse Nathan and it’s so easy to do! Why don’t you send Nathan a confusing e mail today? It’s easilyconfuxed@gmail.com (not to be confuxed with easilyconfused@ the same provider. I don’t know who owns that and we don’t want to confuse them)
I think I may have gone off on a tangent there which involved setting up an entirely new Gmail account so that people could confuse my husband. Time well spent but where were we? Did I mention the heat detector cameras yet?

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Or the  button pressing games? The breath measurer? The bizarrely intimate bit with the ostrich? I didn’t? Ah well, you’ll just have to go there and find out on your own. But let me tell you one last thing….Don’t trust this button.

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Ilford on a Mission – 26/04/14

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Reuben is back at school! After a nailbiting 10 weeks of pox, house move and holiday the boy is once more stuck in the system. And loving it. But this school is different to his last one – they wear a uniform, for starters. I thought it would be a simple enough task to gather the uniform needed but I was wrong. Walk with me, I’ll tell you all about it. There are slides later on.

So, we had our destination for the mission – Ilford. Handily located just around the North Circular and, even more handily, where we were attending a wedding ceremony that morning. With the couple beautifully and emotionally wed, we set off in our wedding finery to comb the shops of Ilford High Road for some polo shirts, trousers, jumpers and socks. I thought we had it in the bag when M&S had a sizeable uniform department…but I was disappointed, and the only things that went in the bag were socks and overpriced trousers.

Debenhams next – we bought an egg and spoon race game but he couldn’t really wear that. Then Next next – no uniform at all. By then, Reuben was losing patience with this whole thing and I left Nathan with him, and a sleeping Eva, on the Chuggington ride outside Next while I ran about a bit, to no avail. Happily, things were about to improve. Not in the uniform-buying stakes, no no, but we did happen upon the “Play Garden” at the bottom of the Exchange Mall, which Reuben enjoyed…and there was a guy giving out free nachos and guacamole.

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I was only gutted that we’d already eaten, so couldn’t introduce the kids to the delights of spud-u-like. It’s a spud and…get this..it’s exactly how you like it. I was a big fan during my retail days in Surrey Quays and Bromley but it wasn’t to be – we’d already introduced them to the delights of Subway instead, where Reuben had got really excited by the idea of choosing exactly what he wanted on his sandwich (he chose ketchup and ham). See, he would love spud-u-like.

Anyways, back to the play garden. It’s not huge but it’s a welcome respite from shopping, which we certainly needed at the time. And it’s got a tiny, tiny slide:

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As well as some fake greenery and mirror wall things:

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You may think that Reuben was sulky enough by now, but check out the face on Nathan:

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Was he loving it, loving it, loving it? Was it, was it wicked? Why did this song burst into my head a few days’ back after a decade’s absence and why can’t I get rid of it?

Let’s skip on.

TK Maxx – no. Sainsbury’s (on the other side of the town centre) – no. It was time for more decisive action:

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Mmmm, cake. In fact, ice cream AND cake. The kindly proprietor of “Noah’s Ark Cafe” heard Reuben debating whether to have carrot cake or ice cream and gave him both. Bonus was that I got both too! A sugar boost and a cup of tea was what I needed to press on with the mission and I frantically googled more places we could try. A uniform shop up towards Valentine’s Park promised that it would be the only place we ever needed.

It wasn’t. But we scored a jumper.

While we were in the area it seemed foolish not to check out the local parkage. The town centre of Ilford is quite grim and 60s, so I wasn’t expecting much from the blob of green on Google maps but it turned out to be quite lovely:

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Unfortunately, my camera had another one of its funny turns and switched itself to sepia, meaning that we were, for a few minutes at least, stuck around 1901:

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With the side effect that Eva turned into a ghost:

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But I managed to switch it back and capture, in glorious technicolour, the sight of Reuben laughing at a sign that depicted a dog doing a dump:

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Well, poo is funny, isn’t it? We headed towards the playground and along the way found a wishing well that had been filled in, presumably for tedious and sensible H&S reasons. Where’s the fun of a wishing well if there’s no jeopardy?

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Reuben made a wish – for more dinosaurs – and we went to play. There was a lot going on in this playground. There were climbing frames adorned with animals:

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A very sociable swing arrangement:

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A climbing slope that Eva insisted on sliding down, still wearing her pretty dress (not the first time she’s misused one of these):

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A palm tree, a teddy-themed climbing frame, another metal thing that Eva used as a slide:

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Word puzzles, sensory bits, more slides, more climbing bits, everything you could ask for:

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Which, of course, is why Reuben decided to beat up Daddy instead. And recruit an ally to help him! Nominally, they were Spiderman and Iron Man fighting Doctor Octopus but from where I was standing, it looked very much like Nathan was being duffed up by two 4-year-olds:

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It was time to move on. We were on a mission, don’t forget, and although it was 4:30 we still didn’t have all we needed. We would need to drive somewhere else and keep going. But first, I needed to peel Eva off the climbing frame:

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Aren’t ya just loving this playground-in-formalwear thing? Ankle-length dresses are so practical for climbing in…

Next stop was going to be Asda in Beckton. I have a lot of faith in Asda and their ability to provide cheap and homogenous clothes for schoolchildren. We set the satnav to go there but, naturally, I got distracted along the way. I saw a giant Sainsburys just off the North Circular that I thought might do the trick so we pulled off and tried to find it. We failed at that, but instead found the rarest of all beasts:

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A Woolworths! Now, I have no idea how a massive retail unit in Beckton came to be still branded by Woolworths in 2014 but I knew two things:

1) Woolworths sold school clothes!

2) That Woolworths was shut. Just like all the other Woolworths in the country.

As Eminem said when Stan died, damn.

So, I tried Matalan next door. It had uniform! It had polo shirts in the right colour! But…not in the right size. With Nathan and the kids in the car, I pleaded with the sales assistant to check in stock for a 5-6 year pack, and she took pity on me. I must have looked a bit mad – wedding clothes, huge ladder in my tights, make up seven hours old, manic look in the eye – and she probably thought it was best to appease me. To no avail, though. They had none.

Back to the car, and Reuben was asleep. We had one last roll of the dice. It was the Promised Land.

2014-04-26 17.57.47Wanna know the ending? We won. Thank you, oh thank you Beckton Asda Superstore. But what did we lose on the journey? Well, only my mind and that’s been on the way out for ages. We’ll call it a break-even overall…

 

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IKEA With a Toddler – 21/04/14

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There are two ways to approach the IKEA experience, especially when you’re trying to do it with a child or two in tow. One is to treat it like a fun day out – forget about buying anything specific, just follow your toddler around and indulge their every whim. Every toy can be cuddled, every rug stroked and every bed jumped on. Then you all go for meatballs. Winner!

And then there’s the approach we took – the Trying To Buy Something approach. Not so easy and not such a winner with Toddles here. It’s long been established that IKEA is less of a shop and more of an experiment by evil Swedish scientists, who are presumably watching the whole thing from a sterile control room somewhere. The rat-in-a-cage feeling starts right from the entrance, where ambiguous signs send you around in circles until you eventually bag a parking spot somewhere under the store. At that point, you begin to wonder whether your boot is big enough to fit a flat-pack wardrobe into. So you employ the human tape measure:

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It’s not as cruel as it looks, honestly. He was totally up for the idea. And he’s around 108cm if you ever need to use him too. So, the boot was measured and we were ready to subject ourselves to some psychological torture.

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But first, some meatballs. You have to get these things out of the way early, don’t you? The kids had already had lunch, but it was a Bank Holiday Monday and BigTesco had closed for a day on the Sunday, leaving us without enough bread for me and Nathan to lunch. So, I left Nathan and the kids in the “unsupervised play area” in the cafe and queued up for the first maze of the day – the canteen. I instantly regretted not getting one of those wheely tray things that everyone else had. It made balancing a tray look so easy! Instead, I juggled two lots of meatballs and chips, as well as jelly for the kids (a bargain 60p!). The condiments section had something called ligonberry jam, which I now realise is a perfectly legitimate thing to have on meatballs. Regret #2 – being suspicious of anything that called itself “jam” in conjunction with dinner. I might not have liked it, but I wish I’d given it a try.

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Roo liked his jelly though. Eva had a few spoons of hers then ran off back to the play area:

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It was going to be tough getting her out of there. In fact, it would be a wrestling her into the buggy thing. If only we weren’t actually planning to buy anything, it would be fine. But I had a whole list of things we needed, including that wardrobe so she would just have to get with the program. The evil-scientist-controlled program. Roo, meanwhile, would be going to play. We had long heard tell of the free Ikea creche and it was time to try it out. But first we had to find it. A set of steps down from the cafe area seemed to lead to the gates of Smaland, but instead it got us to the pick-up point, which was curiously divorced from the front desk. A door that could link the two was marked “Staff Only”. It was the first test and we failed. A trip up in the lift got us back to where we started and from there we located another lift, which finally got us within sight of the Promised Smaland and its enticing ball pool. Roo was booked in for the next session, which gave him just enough time to rampage around Children’s IKEA (defying the one-way system) and demand at least half a dozen different things, including a cuddly elk and a rabbit in a hat. We eventually placated him with a £4 rug for his room, with a dinosaur on it. It was actually Eva’s room that was meant to be getting a new rug, but never mind.

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With Roo safely deposited in the creche, we decided to use the free hour to attack our wishlist, mission-style. First, though, Eva needed some time out of the buggy. Nathan returned from dropping Roo off to find me charging through the bedrooms section, in hot pursuit of a very cheeky and surprisingly fast toddler. She liked the freedom. She liked the tactile fabrics everywhere and she liked the play tent:

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Sadly, all these things would be soon taken away from her, as we deemed her erractic behaviour a hazard to efficiency and she was back in the buggy. Which left us free to inefficiently wander around the Showroom for the next 15 minutes or so in search of more rugs, before descending to the Market Place to wander round there inefficiently instead. We never did buy Eva a rug, but we did acquire a rolling pin, a toilet brush, a dish scrubber and some pegs in the shape of dogs’ backsides. That’s the magic of IKEA – they lure you in with bright colours and low prices and you leave with a whole pile of things you never meant to buy. To be fair to me, they were all things we actually needed, which I consider a result.

Time was rapidly running out, so we found our way to the Warehouse to find the wardrobe we’d seen online. Of course we could have ordered it online but that would cost us £30 in delivery and we were keen to save that. Or, alternatively, spend that money on petrol/cake/jelly/meatballs/rolling pins/a nice family day out instead. To that end, Nathan measured the bits of flat-pack furniture we needed to see if they’d fit in the car. Apparently, he had a real tape measure in his pocket all this time.

With five minutes to go, we needed to find a way back to the Smaland pick up point to get Roo but it wasn’t easy. Why did all these different bits look the same? Why do the shortcuts pop you out somewhere entirely different to where you were expecting? Why was I so disorientated? I usually have a mental satnav, to go alongside my mental tube map, but something about IKEA had caused it to short circuit. I was entirely dependent on Nathan, a man unable to negotiate his way of the simplest of subways.   For the last 16 years, his motto has been “follow Kate” and here, in a Scandanavian rat-trap, it was his turn to lead. I have no idea how we got back to the creche in time, but there we were, collecting our red-faced and over-excited boy who had apparently had “lots and lots of fun”.  The free creche is worth a visit to the rat trap on its own.

Nathan headed back to the car, to use his tape measure again to see whether the furniture bits would fit in the car. I needed an energy boost after all the panic, so I hung our yellow bag up in the coffee shop and bought an icy fruit drink for myself and cake all round. The blueberry cheesecake was awesome. Eva licked the icing off her cake then made another bid for freedom so she was confined to buggy, yet again. Meanwhile, Nathan had come back full of confidence about the furniture-car-fitting ability…and with little to no confidence about the furniture-plus-children-car-fitting-ability. We devised a plan – he would take the furniture home and come back for me and the kids. Hooray for only living a few minutes down the North Circular nowadays!

Flat-pack wardrobe was purchased. Roo started whining that he was tired. We went to the car. The games began.

How do you imagine it went? With three boxes of furniture that had to measured to see if they fit in? In a dark carpark with a tantrumming toddler struggling to get out of her buggy and a boy who’s suddenly regained his lively mojo? It was interesting. Roo ended up in the driver’s seat, which he loved. Nathan and I ended up with backache, which we didn’t love. Eventually, though, he drove off very cautiously, with little in the way of peripheral vision, and we wandered off to kill some time. Starting with the outdoor play area. Play time Eva!

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As ever, Reuben had an ill-timed announcement stored up for us, so we went back into the store, visited the bright red toilets and then headed to the neighbouring Tesco to buy pizza for tea (it was one of those “can’t be bothered” kind of nights). Eva fell asleep, after much protest, so me and Roo hung out just outside Tesco, using the last few gasps of battery on my phone to try and contact Nathan in the hope that a) he had made it home b) he had managed to unpack the car again without me and that c) he was coming back for us. It didn’t look promising. Roo was fine though – he’d found a Noddy ride, which played an advert on loop so he cuddled up with Noddy and watched the telly:

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Did we ever get rescued or are we now living inside one of the IKEA showrooms? I’ll let you decide, because I’m apparently in a reader-empowering mood tonight. I will say this though- if you want to buy a piece of furniture, pay the delivery charge. If you want to have a romp around the showrooms, try out all the yellow play stations and buy an assortment of cuddly arctic animals, go to IKEA. Mind you, once Eva hits 3 and is eligible for the free creche, I can see us going there a lot more often…

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Plaza Park – 19/04/14

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We like to be the first to try things out. We got into the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park as soon as it opened – albeit unintentionally - and I get annoyed if we’re late to the party on London-y, toddler-y things. So when I heard that a playground was reopening in Walthamstow’s Trendy Wood Street TM, I wanted to be there for the opening party.

2014-04-19 12.31.32So we were there. So were many other people – there was a steel band, a gospel choir and a magician. There was a cake stall and lots of local groups like the scouts and the police but all Reuben was interested in was the playground and he and Nathan headed in that direction. Although apparently he stopped to dance to “We wanna see Jesus lifted high” by the gospel choir, saying “I know this song from kids church!”. I was busy talking to some people who were putting together an art installation that’s going to be on in the indoor market. It involved them filming me talking about my favourite film – the one with the singing nun and the unruly youths. So I missed Reuben dancing and his discovery of a giant, seesaw affair which is powered by several children rushing from one side to another:

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In this picture, there aren’t several children – just one adult, so you don’t really get the full effect of it. But Reuben thought it was pretty cool. There were also wooden animals, several climbing frames and a lot of little doors cut into the fence, which were just perfect for losing a child through.

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Where was Eva? Well, this is becoming a recurring theme whenever we go to an exciting new East London park...

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Do take a moment to consider the full glory of those leggings though. X will be jealous that they haven’t yet made their way to her family.

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So, Eva slept, I listened to the gospel choir singing  80s classic “Jesus, We Celebrate Your Victory” and Reuben span himself until he felt so dizzy that he had to lie down:

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Then we spotted another play area on the other side. This was designed for bigger kids, with swings you could stand on, and a giant hamster ball. As Reuben said “It’s like a hamster ball but bigger. It’s for people!” People that like to trip over their own feet and fall over, as Reuben demonstrated.

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He was OK. Better than the teenager that ran full pelt into the metal gate anyway. I think everybody cringed at that. It even woke Eva up, who indicated that she wanted to play, but could be persuaded to stay in her buggy as long as the next stop was the cake stall:

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Mmm, cake-y. The cakes were from Aura Rosa, and they were awesome. I had a vanilla sponge with raspberry and meringue topping and Nathan had the swiss roll (above). The kids enjoyed their cupcakes too:

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It was time to run off some of that sugar, so we went back to the playground and Eva got a chance to try out the climbing frame:

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She kept sliding down that white bit, before we persuaded her to use the actual slide:

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And then it all went badly wrong. Roo was back on the spinny thing, and Eva wanted on. I should have been watching more carefully, but had just seen an exciting pregnancy announcement on Facebook, so looked up in time to see Eva faceplant on the wooden base.

There was blood. It was a bit nasty. She still has all her teeth, but she also has a fat lip. It was time to go home.

None of which is Plaza Park’s fault. It’s a great new addition to the Walthamstow play scene and on a handy bus route from our house. We’ll be back.

 

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

Leyton Jubilee park – 14/04/14

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Leyton…the name just evokes images of glamour and rock n roll, doesn’t it? Well, the second bit is covered as the bassist from the band I like to call “The Maiden” comes from Leyton but the glamour? Prior to our visit on Monday, the only experience I had of Leyton was being stuck on the A12 on the way up to Norfolk once, when there had been an accident. It took us three hours to get from Leyton to Leytonstone, and our view was a concrete embankment and the glimpse of a giant Next. For entertainment we had only one kinder egg between five of us, which we made last for around two hours, playing quizzes and competitions for each bite or part of the toy. That was five and a half years ago and we haven’t been back since.

(What? You thought that was since we had kids? Nah…a kinder egg wouldn’t last two minutes around here nowadays…)

But now we were EastEnders we needed to explore the East End and I’d heard tales of an ancient pirate vessel marooned in a park in the aforementioned Leyton. OK, a brand new pirate vessel in the brand new Jubilee Park. It’s not the most obvious place to find, and is further off Lea Bridge Rd than google maps would have you believe, but if you’re on the 158 route it goes straight there.We aren’t, and our route was a bit roundabout. We got there in the end though:

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You might notice that Reuben has dressed for the occasion. Eva was too, albeit it in a more subtle way..and she had fallen asleep by the time we reached the park, leaving the pirate ship wide open for Roo:

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It’s a climbing frame in the shape of a ship rather than a climbable ship in the style of the Diana playground but it was lots of fun. There are no benches around it so I sat on the grass next to snoozy girl and Reuben went off adventuring, stopping only to drop off his sword and eyepatch when they got in his way.

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It’s a complex beast, with fences dividing the toddler-friendly bits from the bits with sheer drops. This frustrated Eva no end when she woke up – she could climb the steps and potter through the middle but then was faced with either a big step or a fence. It’s a good idea to keep toddlers safe, but try explaining that to the toddlers. Reuben was big enough to climb over the fences and so had the run of the whole thing but Eva was restricted to the very same part as two ten-year-olds were using to have a fight. It wasn’t the most violent of brawls (they spent a long time discussing whereabouts they should have the fight before starting) but tween fighting seems to follow us around – two weeks ago it was a full-on catfight in Lloyd park that resulted in the police being called out. This had no danger of turning that way, but wasn’t the best thing to be happening around Eva…so we decided to check out the other side of the park instead.

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The other area seemed more geared towards toddlers, but with an unusual feature – slides that toddlers couldn’t actually get on to. There was a little one that was just Eva’s side, but access was through a maze of balancing beams rather than steps:

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Even Roo couldn’t get onto it (but then he is a bit unco-ordinated). Other slides had scramble nets to get to them, or were built into hills with no steps cut in. There wasn’t much that a 2-year-old could access absolutely independently. Which is strange, because it’s a very nice and child-friendly natural play area:

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Eva’s favourite thing was a wooden recreation of the Stratford Rhubarb, which she spent ages peeking out of:

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Reuben, meanwhile, was doing his cardio work on the mini treadmill. Because he never normally physically exerts himself, obviously. Apart from being a constant whirlwind from dawn to dusk…

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And I managed to get Eva onto a slide, by pushing her up a scramble net far too big for her. She repaid me for this favour by sitting on the slide and refusing to slide down it, just wobbling precariously next to the top of the net.

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So, a bit of an odd strategy – five slides and no steps on any of them. Obviously some were aimed at older kids, but even then some kids just don’t like scramble nets (neither do I, as it happens…). Still, they played for a long time there, dipping in and out of the trenches, wobbling on the bridges and just running about. It was almost time to go home, but before we did I wanted to check out yet another play area, on the other side of the “showground”.

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Now, this really was aimed at older kids (it was an adventure trail for 8+) but seeing as it wasn’t busy, mine decided to give it a go too:

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The slope was quite steep, and I was happy about Eva going down it on her bottom before I noticed a smattering of broken glass about the place. After that, I encouraged her to stick to the gentle pursuit of gathering sticks:

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While Reuben went down the big slide again and again…still dressed as a pirate:

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And swung on the swing:

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Time was moving on and the kids had eaten lunch, but I hadn’t, and Kate gets cross when she’s hungry. i’d hoped there’d be a cafe in the park but there wasn’t even an ice cream van (Reuben did ask). So we headed off and tried to get the 158 back…but it was full of buggies, so we ended up on the 58 back to Walthamstow mall instead, where we went to Asda for lunch and ice cream with the pigeons. A very East London day out.

VERDICT: A welcome addition to the regenerated East London parkscape, but some of the equipment could be more accessible for the under 3s.

More details here (official site)

 

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