La Boîte – 31/03/17


The kids broke up from school today. You’d probably be able to hear the sheer noise of them from any point within the M25 but somehow they seemed noisier in a small signal box, eating pancakes at 5pm.


We’d been on a long walk round Highams Park after school – drinking coffee at Ziggys, playing in the part roped-off Snail Park, transferring to Vincent Road Park (where Eva was apparently beautiful enough to frame) and then persuading a complete stranger to let Reuben use her toilet. So pancakes were the next obvious step. Obvious.


La Boîte, in case your français is not as beau as mine, means “The Box” and it’s a conversion of the old signal box next to Highams Park station, which has stood empty for years. I didn’t take a photo from the outside, so let’s use an image by the very talented local artist Juliet Thomas:


Copyright Juliet Thomas


Now, it sells crepes and gallettes and by night you can enjoy a glass of wine there, all while the trains are rumbling by. I’m not going to say that chocolate and marshmallow pancakes at 5 were a great idea in the grand scheme of things but hey, the kids thought they were. Between Reuben , Eva and Bunny they had the full range of white, milk and dark chocolate and I can confidently say that each one of those is as messy and sticky as the others. Pack baby wipes. I can also say with confidence that gloss paint was a good idea for the door frames, as Bunny’s chocolate handprints rubbed straight off.


The kids devoured their pancakes, though us grown ups had to wait a little longer and they *may* have been a bit restless by the time we got our strawberry and cream crepes. It’s obviously not a huge space and the 20-odd seats in there were all full at one point, so not a lot of scope for sugar-filled kids charging about. There is a small balcony at the back though, which is great for a bit of a fresh air and a view of the trains.


Because what a USP! Especially is you have one of those transport-obsessed toddlers that I used to own. Trains go past every seven minutes or so and the kids were full-on channeling “The Railway Children”, waving to the trains as they went past. More often than not we got a wave back from the driver which, let’s face it, is exciting whether you’re six or thirty six.


So it’s not a place to spend hours in with kids because the space is limited, but as long as you get your food at the same time it’d be fine. And they were particularly lovely pancakes. They had savoury options too but we were throwing caution to the wind and enjoying some sugar and cream, even though one of us had eaten literally nothing savoury all day. There’s a great people-watching aspect too, though I was disappointed to not see anyone I knew. If we’d been sitting station end I may well have. Downstairs, there’s a small garden and – crucially – a toilet. They also take credit card payments.


It’s sticky and messy and the resulting sugar crash is messier still but you should definitely pay a visit if you’re in the area. It’s a charming little place with lovely food and the most Highams Park of views. More information here.



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The Gruffalo Trail – 25/03/17


For reasons too complicated to explain here, we needed a jaunt out of London today. So we drove from Nearly-Essex, where we live, to Proper Essex where everyone wears fur gilets and designer boots for a walk in the woods. I thought Eva was overdressed, in a floor-length Anna dress, but no she was probably best suited out of all of us.

Our destination was Thornden Country Park, home of the Gruffalo Trail. I’d read online that it was a good day out, tainted only by the expensive and cranky parking machines. Well. on this second point they were not wrong. Parking was £4 for 3 hours, which doesn’t sound hideous to my London brain but is quite steep if you’re used to country parks having parking for free. There was no entrance fee to the actual park though, so just see it as a donation to the general upkeep. The pay and display machines were a bit eccentric though. The first one didn’t recognise my card or accept coins and the second one took an awfully long time to even consider my request for a parking ticket as something it might be able to produce, while a queue built behind me. You also needed to know your registration number, which I didn’t.

But it’s OK. Google had prepared me for parking stresses and once that was done, the rest of the day was pretty straightforward. We bought a trail map for 50p in the shop (the only other compulsory outlay really) and set off for a stroll in the deep, dark wood.

Eva was navigating, although she and Roo would fight over the map for at least the first half hour, after which they’d lose the map entirely. In so many ways, I should have bought two. But no fear, as we found the first model with ease. Or rather do fear, because oh help, oh no, it’s a…..


Reuben had spotted what he called a “logpile house” (which I think most would call a “stick den”?) and wanted to make his own, so started dragging around massive sticks and propping them against a tree. He got bored after about three of them and luckily before blinding his sister with the twiggy end. No wonder she skipped off without him to find mark no 2, the Gruffalo’s Child:


This one Eva kept kissing, because “he’s so cute”. Hardly could bring myself to tell her that the Gruffalo’s Child is a girl. They also did one of the suggested activities on the trail map – putting beech shells on their fingers to make Gruffalo claws:


Mark #3 was the actual logpile house, which was taped off – I assume to stop children climbing all over it:


Next up was the owl, which was appropriately high up in a tree. “But how will we get all the way up there?” squeaked Eva. Short answer is, she didn’t.


We were skipping through the markers pretty quickly, so I decided to stop for a while and just let them round around. Eva found another stick den to set up home in, Reuben made another attempt at building his own. And then they both walked along this felled tree:



They were playing for ages while we were sitting on a bench but I was starting to crave a coffee, so I started hurrying them along. Especially when Eva declared that the fox wanted her to “stay up her for much longer. Maybe two hours”


Eva found a tree to sit in as well, where she could balance without even sitting on anything, which she thought was pretty amazing. She was less impressed a few minutes later when I tried to get her down and got her head stuck between the two branches. Let’s focus on the moments before that happened:



I really needed coffee but these children needed to play. All three of them:



Luckily, we were nearing the end. Just a mouse to find!



So yes, it was coffee time. The trail had taken us about an hour but the kids could have spent longer, climbing trees and playing on the wooden beams near the mouse. Which makes it pretty good value considering we only paid for parking.


The cafe was nice and spacious – there was a bit of a queue and apparently it had been busy all day (it was about 4pm). It wasn’t quite what I’d fantasised about in the woods – cupcakes and soya lattes – but there were biscuits and machine coffee and kids lunchbox pic ‘n’ mix. I had a full-cow latte and this cheeky bottle of pop:



We all had snacks then all went back for seconds. We were clearly hungry after all that fresh air. My kids also proved that you’re never too millenial to get excited about a piece of curved plastic in swirly colours:



There was a little more time left to run on our parking ticket, so we went to the sandpit in the picnic area for one more little play before we went home. Nathan and the kids also spotted a secret squirrel up a tree but I didn’t get a photo because, well…it’s a secret, right?




gruf20 gruf21

It was a beautiful day to be in the woods and a pretty good day out for minimal amounts of money. Yes, it requires going outside the M25 but I reckon it’s worth it once in a while. Just dress for the occasion.



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London, You Know the Drill


What happened yesterday was awful. Anything that hurts people in our city is awful. But you know what we have to do. We have to carry on with life as usual, just like we did on July 8th 2005 and like Londoners have done since the first Celt said “Blimey, these Romans are a bit rough. Shall we have a brew?” The first post I ever wrote on this blog was the day after a shooting in broad daylight on our road in Kennington. Last night, overshadowed by the events in Westminster, there was another Kennington incident – a stabbing in the middle of a massive street brawl. There is always violence around us as we jostle for space in this huge city. But I’m with Sadiq Khan – it cannot stop us living our lives and it should not.

Four years ago, I wandered around Vauxhall after a helicopter crash claimed two more lives. Four and a half years ago, it was the riots. There’s always something. Nowadays, we live further away from the centre of it all  - for reasons of financial necessity, not fear – but it still feels so close to home when it happens somewhere that used to be so literally close to home. Westminster Bridge was the first view either of my children saw – or it would have been if newborns could see further than the end of their own noses.  I wandered along that strip of the South Bank so many times with babies, toddlers and not-quite-born-yets, gazing at that famous view. It hurts to see it defiled by one man with a vicious, and as yet undetermined, agenda but we move on.

Not everyone can. Those who were at the scene and will replay it in their minds infinitely. Those who were injured or killed. The families of all those people. But the rest of us, we must share in their sorrow, feel their pain but keep this city moving. Professional trolls and far-right politicians are waiting for us to fall apart or turn on each other. Let’s not indulge them. London, you know the drill. Life as usual.



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L.O.L. Surprise Doll – 19/03/2017



One of the many things we missed out on over February half term was the launch of a new surprise doll – the L.O.L Surprise. Luckily I hadn’t told Eva we were ever meant to be going (it was planned as a sur… you get the idea) so she was thrilled when one just appeared in the post for her. I’ve already overused *that* word but let’s just say it was unexpected.

So we decided to go Full Disney Collector and film her as she unwrapped it. It’s an amateurish attempt at a vlog – my phone memory ran out before we’d fully explored everything inside and also, my voice is annoying. I apologise. But here it is:

Ignore the fact I keep calling it an egg. It’s a ball, not an egg.  And you unpeel the layers using a cute little zip marker. Essentially, it’s seven layers of surprises – the first is a coded message, the second is a sticker telling you what to do with your doll (bathe it or feed it and it’ll do something unexpected). Next is a bottle, which I seem to remember is embedded in a secret compartment in the plastic ball. Then there are outfits and accessories and eventually you get the doll, along with some instructions on what to do with the plastic ball (it can be a handbag or a hangout or a bath) and a chart telling you whether you have a popular or rare doll. We got two baby dolls and they were both super-rare! Go us!

Eva enjoyed unwrapping it and immediately wanted to take it all up to the bath so she could bathe the babies and see what they did – the sticker promised they would either cry, spit, pee or change colour. I think we got the last of those, which is the best option I think. I’m sure she’ll want to collect them all now. If you have a child who’s similarly interested in surprises and dolls, have a look here for all the L.O.L. Surprise info you need.

Disclaimer: I received a free L.O.L. Surprise Doll in exchange for a review. All opinions remain honest and my own. 

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Brussels with a Toddler



Yes, we went to Brussels and yes, we had an actual toddler to explore with. The toddler was one of the Marias and we had a clutch of delightful other children to skip around with too. But first, let me talk you through how you do international travel with two schoolkids without taking any time off school.

Certainly keeping it relatively simple helps. Brussels is only two hours away on the Eurostar and it’s easy enough to get to Kings Cross for us so we left home straight after school – 4ish – and were in Brussels by nightfall. We were travelling light, by our standards, and it turns out the kids are now big enough to carry a rucksack and pull a suitcase:


They’re also big enough to sit around the terminal at Kings Cross for 45 minutes without complaining too much and to entertain themselves for two hours on the train. I knew there was a reason we didn’t do this sooner.  Here are my boys both reading their way under the English Channel:


Roo was reading the BFG and that comfortably lasted him the whole trip. Eva looked through a magazine, drew some princesses and then made me talk about princesses. We had a brief visit to the buffet car, which bemused Eva a little. She asked “How did they get a cafe on a humongous boat?” and I must admit that bemused me a little too. Nathan got a beer,  the kids got brownies, we looked out of the window at Lille station and then before long, we were in Brussels.

A sleep at Maria’s and some good coffee saw us out and ready to explore bright and early the next morning. Our first stop was Tervuren tram station, where we found a giant elephant opposite the African Museum:


That was quite exciting. The tram was quite exciting too and we got a good view of the Brussels suburbs – triangular houses, the dramatically rocky lake of Parc du Woluwe and a tram museum. All pleasingly foreign (look kids, we really are abroad!).

So, where to go to for the bleeding-heart-lefty-liberal parent in Brussels? Why, the EU of course!

Look kids, we really are still in Europe.



It was drizzling a little by this point, so we didn’t get to play in the nearby park. Instead we jumped on the metro and went for lunch at our next destination – the Comic Strip Museum. There was a brasserie just inside the museum which looked like it might be a bit fancy for us and our collective gaggle of children. But they had highchairs and pencils on the table and every place mat was a riot of smurfs:


Knowing as I do what a fusspot Eva is, you might be wondering what she would possibly eat in a Belgian brasserie. Well, she asked me before we travelled whether they had salt in Brussels and I’m happy to confirm that yes, they do. So she applied that to her frites, chased it with a bowl of salami chunks and she was happy. Roo had the meatballs and frites and he was pretty happy as well. Nathan had a Belgian beer and well…he thought it was “very Brussels” and “something of an acquired taste”. I gorged on creamy pasta, which was a taste I shouldn’t acquire if I have any respect for my arteries. The food was great, the service quick and friendly and the children relatively happy.


This all boded well for the Stripmuseum itself, which promised to be both child-friendly and geek-friendly. It was in a beautiful building for starters:



And the lobby was full of bright and colourful things, which delighted the kids:


Upstairs there were galleries of original comic art, which Nathan enjoyed, and a screening room which showed a Belgian cartoon I’m going say was called “Dickie” but I’m not entirely sure about that. This guy, anyway:


Dickie also had one of his strips on magnetic panels on the wall, which you had to rearrange into the right order. It was a custom job, I think, seeing as it was set in the Comic Strip Museum itself:


Upstairs from that, there were areas dedicated to those most famous Belgian comic exports – Tintin and the Smurfs. Reuben wasn’t really a Tintin fan before we went but he has a good working knowledge of the boy detective now, after reading through all the (trilingual) posters and laughing at the  bowler hat with bird poo on it. He also liked the ancestral portrait:


The tiny blue people were better known and we all liked the model of the Smurf Village:


And a full-size Smurf House!


It was getting late by now and we still had more touristy stuff to do but we needed a small rest and the museum reading room was perfect – comics in English and big cushions to relax on. We even got all five children quiet and still at the same time for a few minutes. Reuben read Tintin and Eva asked me to read a Smurf book in Italian that I believe was about a magic egg. I had a good go at it.

Then we wandered through Brussels, Eva and N hand-in-hand, and walked through the gloriously ornate Les Galeries Royales Saint-Hubert:


This was where all the fanciest chocolate shops were and it was undoubtedly a tourist trap but hey, we were tourists. We browsed a few shops before choosing this one because they were giving out free samples:


The samples worked. Nathan and I bought some chunky chocolate letters to take back to our offices.

Next up was the very shiny Grand-Place where all the old trade guilds were, each trying to outdo the others in gilt and rooftop statues:


We didn’t linger, as we were all starting to flag. What could get us the energy to get home? Why, Belgian waffles of course!


We sat outside as it wasn’t yet raining, and gorged on waffle, cream, strawberries, chocolate and bananas. But then it started to rain and so we headed to the station, stopping only to watch some very entertaining buskers tap dancing and playing “In the Mood”.

I won’t review the hotel facilities at Casa Maria as you may not be able to just invite yourselves like we did. But trust me, they were excellent. The kids played together from early morn to bedtime, the boys talking nonsense about monsters and the girls trailing round in high heels. It was a dreamlike weekend and we only snapped out of it on the late-evening Victoria Line leg of the trip on Sunday evening. It was most definitely doable for two nights and Brussels is certainly a good destination for travelling with kids. And maybe if you’re super-lucky, the Marias will come along and act as your native guides…


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The Last Summer of Baby Swings


Today is the first sunny after school of the year. We went to the park,  along with every other child in a 5 mile radius, and Eva asked to go on the baby swing. As I levered her in,  I realised how much she’d grown since last summer. She’s got two terms of school under the belt of her grubby Belle dress  and in so many ways she is not my baby any more. It’s been 7 years since I first  hesitantly lowered her brother into one of those and now it seems that this summer we might be done with the baby swings once and for all.


It’s hard to remember that she’s nearly 5, seeing as we’re still in the midst of toddler-like tantrums about dinner and hairwashes. But she is growing up. She’s starting to write and read, as long as the subject material is strictly related to fairytales, princesses or fairytale princesses. Otherwise she’s not interested. Reuben, meanwhile, is speeding through his Roald Dahl boxset, finishing Fantastic Mr Fox in a day.  When we went to Belgium, they carried their own rucksacks and pulled their own cases and made us start daydreaming about the prospect of holidays a little further away than the Isle of Wight.
It’s so hard to write about this without resorting to cliché so I’ll just embrace it instead. It goes so fast. Not when you’re in the  relentless drudge of sleep deprivation and days pass like  weeks. But once they’ve started toddling away it speeds up like a John Lewis advert and you find yourself organising birthday parties with frightening regularity just so that you can add all those candle-blowing out shots to the turbo-charged montage. You  also start being responsible for other people’s kids at those parties, which is a bit of a bummer and severely restricts your alcohol consumption. But on the bright side, they’ve started to do useful stuff like cleaning up their own yoghurt spill. Maybe one day they’ll be able to eat a yoghurt without spilling it at all.
That might be living in fantasy land though. Reuben may be capable of teaching people three times his age what a conjunction is but that doesn’t mean he can get from the lounge to the bathroom without knocking over several stacks of paper and dropping at least one thing down the toilet. In some ways, we still have a toddler.
But we won’t forever. And, to end on another cliche, that’s why we need to enjoy the baby swing years while we can. A few more years and they’ll be using them to hold their cans of White Lightning while they smoke on the slide. Can’t wait for those kind of #preciousmoments.
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More About SwingTrain


swing train

Once again, this is not a sponsored post. I’m plugging SwingTrain from the goodness of my heart and the hope that enough people will sign up to keep my particular class viable. I’m not getting paid or any freebies, though I did get offered a complimentary extra round of charleston squats on my birthday. I politely declined.

Point being, my opinion is honest and unbiased. But also, it’s a one-off so other brands..don’t get any ideas.

The Bishopsgate 6-week course has come to an end and another one is starting on 9th March (booking link here).  That meant I had today off and I really missed my morning class. It breaks up the week, skipping out of the house without the children and going to prance around a studio doing jazz hands. Over the 6 weeks I’m not going to say I’ve mastered the routines but at least I have a fair idea of what’s coming up next. I even taught Eva a bit of charleston. Look:

SwingTrain is friendly for even the chronically unfit and unco-ordinated. Which means me, obviously. If you work in the city you should come and join us – it’s such a happy way to start your day. And there are even showers in the changing room next door so you don’t have to go to work sweaty. My colleagues are grateful for that.


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Mr Bloom Live

Bloom 1


When I mentioned the Curse of February Half Term in my last post, I wasn’t joking, That is how I ended up reviewing a show I didn’t even go to. Bear with me, and I’ll explain in baffling LWATlogic what happened.

I was asked to come and review Mr Bloom’s Nursery at Richmond Theatre, at the same time as Eva had to be at a party in Walthamstow which geography fans will realise is the opposite side of London. Clearly then, it was never going to be a full-family trip but Roo and I could go and it gave us the chance to recruit a real live toddler – henceforth known as Lady H. But we all know what happens to best-laid plans and when the curse struck mercifully close to home, it made me certain I wasn’t taking Reuben far from home the next day. That meant Nathan had to stay with him, while I took Eva to the party. And Lady H had to hastily find her own toddler pal to go with her.

Conclusion was, 4 people went to see Mr Bloom’s Nursery but none of them were me or my child. I’ll come back to what they thought later. First though, what is Mr Bloom’s Nursery Live?

Well, you know Mr Bloom. He’s the Mumsnet-Favourite Faux-Northern CBeebies Gardener who both cuddles vegetables and encourages children to eat them. Don’t think too hard about that.  Now, he’s taking his veggies out on the road in a special live show that see them preparing the allotment for a royal visit. There’s Colin the Runner Bean, Margaret the Cabbage, Joan the Fennel, Raymond the Butternut Squash, Sebastian the Aubergine and the Wee McGregors. And with his veg and plants, he will sing and dance. I imagine.

Between now and 30th April, the show is visiting 40 venues – have a look at the full list of dates here. It’s aimed at 2-7 year olds, which is why it would have been perfect to take my 7-year-old and the 2-year-old Lady H. Ah well, well just chalk it up to another plan scuppered by The Curse.

But Lady H and her friend did enjoy it! They didn’t know all the songs to start with so were a bit unsure at first…but then they warmed up and were doing the actions “admirably” according to PapaH. There was some good audience interaction, with Mr Bloom throwing seeds (balls) into the audience for the older kids to catch, and the timing seemed about right (1 hr 20 inc interval) as some of the smaller ones were getting restless towards the end. So, a ringing endorsement from the 2-year-old and maybe I’ll be able to take the 4- and 7-year-olds when the tour comes back Londonwards. After all, look at how they – like the veggies – love Mr Bloom:

Bloom 2

For more information on Mr Bloom’s Nursery Live, click here

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The Imagine Festival – 14/02/17


Well, not really much of the Imagine Festival. We were there for a bit and then we weren’t but I got some photos and I’m confident that I’ve lowered your expectations after all these years so you’ll be grateful that I’ve ever managed to blog about it before the whole thing’s over.

Half term has something of a curse for us, and none more so than February half term. It really peaked in Feb 2014 when we visited the Imagine Festival but it was marred by frantic calls from the estate agent, as our buyer was threatening to pull out and our seller was suddenly demanding an extra £40k. Then Roo’s faithful scooter Scooty broke on the way home. We thought that was unlucky enough but the next day Eva woke up with chickenpox. And it got worse from there.

So you can see why I’m a touch paranoid about Feb half terms. We had a close call with a bug on Sunday night which turned out to be nothing after a full day of cautionary quarantine. But I twitched whenever either one of them needed the toilet and tried to keep their interaction with other children brief. You’ll be pleased to know they were fine and they remain fine. I am probably just insane.

Anyway, we got to the Southbank Centre at ten and found this incredible den (that rhymed didn’t it? Not intentional I assure you. Keep those expectations low). It was basically just some matresses to bounce on and a bed to climb on but the kids loved it. They’re not always allowed to bounce on the beds at home.


There was also a wardrobe with a Narnia-style false back:


But we’ll come back to that because it was storytime with Nimble Arts Becky and Boris the Bird! It was in the Clore Ballroom, which feels huge after the intimate storytelling sessions we used to enjoy at The Dish and the Spoon. It was aimed at the under 5s but I figured that Reuben would still enjoy Becky’s surreal sense of humour and I think he did. Not so sure about C, who joined us briefly but thought he was a bit above it all. The toddler hordes were well into it though:


It’s basically preschool Glasto.

We had to nip off and collect the mothers from Waterloo so we could go for lunch. My masterplan was to visit the Nando’s opposite Southwark tube, which we did, but first we had half an hour to kill as it wasn’t yet acceptable lunchtime. So I spotted a playground on the map in Nelson Square. It was a nice day and not too cold and I thought the kids could have a run around and we could have a sit down on the benches. Except the benches were covered in polythene sheeting and so was the rest of the play equipment. And there were workmen still building it. Darn. But good news folks, brand new playground on the way…although it’s running behind LB Southwark’s schedule.

So instead we nipped to a nearby Costa for much-needed caffeine, while Eva whinged about only being allowed one mini muffin (“I WILL eat my dinner if I have another one” she claimed, against all empirical evidence), then off to Nando’s where our table for six was encased in a cute nest that Nathan and I entirely failed to get a photo of. Told you, I’m winning at this blog thing.

But hey, I found this little bit of wonder under the bridge on Blackfriars Road:


We unanimously agreed it sounded far tastier than a Trump Burger.


Then we walked back to the Southbank Centre but really, by the time Eva had painstakingly eaten a tiny amount of food and then walked ever so slowly on her tiny yegs, it was nearly time for us for go home for Roo’s swimming lesson. Still, we had a few minutes to play with that wardrobe, which has its own escape hatch:



We dropped the mothers back to Waterloo and on the tube home, Eva experimented with the Rosie the Riveter look, which is curiously appropriate given one of the friends we met today:


And…saving the most exciting news for last. There are new seat covers on the Bakerloo Line. Yes, you read it here first. The red, blue and brown has given way to this tasteful, almost-monochrome:


They still have the fingernail shapes on the wall though, don’t worry.

If you fancy doing the Imagine Festival a bit better than we did, check out the full listings here. There are Lego workshops, virtual reality trees and the temporary Moomin exhibition downstairs. Though sadly, I think you’ve missed the Finnish singing dinosaurs. I’ll have to get the report back from Bunny and Bunny’sDad.


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Institute of Imagination – 11/02/17


It’s been a complicated day. I swear that’s not the first time I’ve opened a blog post like that but maybe we just have a lot of complicated days. So you don’t need any boring explanations of my inner workings to understand why a journey from Highams Park to Hammersmith involved a stop off in Kennington. It just made sense, OK?

The occasion was the opening of the Institute of Imagination and, after talking to some of the people behind it I think I understand the vision. The space in Lambeth is a stepping stone to bigger things – they’ll be here for a year, running regular schools workshops and public days on a more spaced-out basis (around every 6 weeks I think, to fit with the changing themes). The eventual goal is to open a permanent space around 2019 which will be a centre for all things STEAM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Art and Maths) – an interactive family museum. So this warehouse space is a taster of what’s to come.

With that in mind, I’ll try to give you an idea of what was there today. We only did a small amount of it, and it was the lower-level stuff because I only had Eva with me. There was so much that Roo would have enjoyed, including coding for kids (Key Stage 2 upwards) but he was in Hammersmith…I told you it was complicated.

Let’s start at the beginning. The space is also a pop-up museum for the London Fire Brigade, which has a fire station just over the road. There was a 1960s “Look at Life” film showing in the lobby filmed in that very fire station. Look, here are the fire engines going out onto the Albert Embankment:


There was also a play fire engine that Eva didn’t want to go past:


But I made her, cause there was so much else to see. We started at the craft table, making “Superhero Body Armour”. See, I told you Reuben would have loved this. Eva made some spare hands, though I have to say I did most of the glove blowing up work. They are currently slightly deflated.

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Next, we moved to the doodle table, which was hosted by this guy. Dedication or what?


These were such satisfying pens to use – kind of paint-pens. I coloured in a dog and Eva drew a cat. Not such we were really using the outer reaches of our imaginations yet but we were having fun.

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At the same time, there was a workshop on contemporary dance going on in the middle of the room, hosted by the Royal Academy of Dance. I apologise for the general rubbishness of this photo. I didn’t want to stray too far from Eva.


Then Auntie Savage turned up. back in the fire engine!


I should point out that Auntie Savage is a bigshot director at one of those thought-innovation companies so this was partly a casual hangout with us and partly a networking trip. She combined the two with panache. We chatted to Gareth Binns (the Chief Executive of the Institute) Tom Doust (Director of Experience and Learning) and Henrietta Yoxall (Director of Marketing and Communications), which is how we found out so much about what the Institute was looking to do and how wide their remit was – hence the 25 partnerships today with everyone from the aforementioned dancers to FUZE Coding.

We hung out in the Zen Den (I may have got that name wrong but I’m sticking with it cause I like it), where there was calm music, fake candles, beanbags and rosequartz. It was a lovely little calming spot in the midst of the busyness. Soon though Eva got hungry and we moved into the Imagination Lab to grab a table and eat her sandwich. She got a little distracted by the play area though:

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And making some structures with paper straws:


So I had a little play around with the wooden letters, while Auntie Savage had a go on the 3D printers.


I’d packed lunch for Eva but I figured I would pick something up as I went. And there was a crepe stall selling savoury crepes, right next to where we were seating. Result!

I won’t tell you how long it took to get a crepe but we definitely had time to do another activity before it arrived. So we chose one of the artist installations that the Institute might be funding (they were taking votes on three options). I missed the subtleties of this one, as I was hovering around Crepeville, I know that Eva had to write on a tag what her favourite activity of the day had been (“Making body armour”) and then choose which areas of her brain she’d used and thread the appropriate beads onto the string. Savage was supervising that one.


It was almost time to go and get Reuben but Eva was thirsty, so we stopped off at the Vivid Drinks stall, and she mixed her own juice, before carefully writing a label for it:

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It was a great space – the pipes were painted in bright primary colours, which apparently had been like that when the iOi got the space and even the toilets were funky, if ambiguous over which gender they were intended for. The Imagination Lab is the permanant space for the year, and the bigger space will be used for large-scaled events like this. There was a room for buggy parking and bag drop, which featured a sofa curiously like the one we used to sit on at the Doghouse. Could it be the same one, rescued from this roadside where I photographed it four years ago? Compare and contrast!

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We didn’t do any of the techier stuff at all and would have done if Roo had been there. But, as I may have mentioned, he was in Hammersmith, which is where Eva and I now headed before returning to HP for a party at 3…ish… I only mention the Hammersmith bit because of a wonderfully condescending remartk from Eva as we disembarked at Hammersmith tube and I expressed a small concern that just moments before, we’d been on the wrong side of the A4 to where we were meant to be and I was hoping we didn’t have to someone traverse the Hammersmith Flyover. “Don’t be silly” said she of  the full 4.75 years “Haven’t you heard of a thing called ‘Crossing the Road’?”

Thanks for that Eva. It’s been a pleasure hanging out with you today. Mostly.


Find out more about the Institute of Imagination, including upcoming events, here.


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