High Times and Highams Park Days – 11/07/15



Yesterday could have gone one of several ways. It could have been a day when I looked at the four things I wanted to do and sensibly decided on just one or two of them. It could have been a day when I attempted to do all four but ended up with screaming, overtired children. What I never would have anticipated would be that we would do everything we wanted to and it would all go well and smoothly. Every so often we have one of those days and when it happens, I like to write about it. To remind myself when we’re having the not so good days – the other 364 days of the year.

First up on the Day of Insanity was Roo’s school fete. I won’t tell you which school he goes to for lots of good reasons. Like the head might read this. Or you might hang around the school gates and try to kidnap Roo. Or I might get it into my head that someone out there is going to kidnap Roo and then I’ll be disappointed when they don’t, and I continue to have to pay for all that food he consumes. So I’ll just share a picture of him on the bouncy slide:



And I won’t share with you the quite remarkable wristband he got at the Hook-a-Duck. Were those really tiny marijuana leaves printed on it?

Next stop, after some Mr Freezes, was Highams Park Day – a kind of local village fete, East London style. So there were cupcake stalls, vintage stalls and, of course, bunting:



We didn’t spend long at the fete itself, before retiring to the adjoining park, but we did stop by the “Enchanted Invasion” tent to make a fairy door or two. The idea is that on the weekend of the 25th and 26th July, these fairy doors will be popping up all over Highams Park and kids can follow the trail using maps from local shops. Having no artistic abilities at all, I was shying away from hosting one of these doors, but the kids wanted to get stuck in:



So, we now have two fragile cardboard affairs that may or may not be appearing outside our house in a couple of weeks. I may have to cobble together something more substantial, using the decking I ripped up from the garden. I don’t know how I ended up agreeing to this, but it’s hard to say no to these elvish landgirl types:



By the time we’d listened to some ukelele music and got covered in glitter, it was definitely park time. I’ve mentioned Vincent Road playground before, and it was conveniently next door:



Even more conveniently, it contained some Dads who wanted to buy Nathan beer…so he was happy. And a whole load of kids for Reuben and Eva to play with. Or ignore. Here’s Eva, “relaxing in her lounge and watching television”:


Little did she know that it was actually the control centre for the S.H.I.E.L.D. helicarrier and would be later used by Roo and his friends for some top secret superhero missions. Luckily, she also had her “school” to play in:



By now, it was 4PM, we’d done 2 fetes and were all hot and bothered. Nathan was enjoying his strawberry cider (they’d run out of beer) and the last thing that we felt like doing was getting on a bus to go to a pub in Walthamstow.

But that’s just what we did because, as I told you, this was a Day of Insanity. The pub was The Bell, the reason was a friend’s leaving do and the incentive was dinner. I’d heard that Walthamstow folks often take their kids out to The Bell for Saturday evening tea and we were about to test it out, with some very overtired and potentially grumpy children.

Yknow what, though? They were fine. My friend had brought some Elsa and Anna dolls, so Eva was happy, and Roo was content to look at the Simpsons pinball machine and explore the vast beer garden:



Our food came swiftly – burger and chips for Nathan and Eva, chicken nuggets and chips for Reuben and houmous and flatbreads for me. It was so hot that I didn’t feel like eating much, and I knew I’d have a good shot at Eva’s kids’ meal later. Kids’ meals are £3.95 by the way and the chips are beautiful. The burgers are good and meaty too. However, I’d hesitate to say that it’s as posh a dining experience as this next shot makes out:


Still, it was good food and much needed. Even my houmous plate was huge, with a dollop of houmous the size of a cricket ball on it. Plus, as predicted, I got to eat a lot of Eva’s burger.



We had one more mission to do, to complete the Day of Insanity and that involved climbing a big hill opposite The Bell. This would require serious motivation for all of us. So a handily placed Tesco provided us with chocolate buttons, Kinder eggs, drinks and magazines. We were going to the Natural Voices concert in St Mary’s Church and then we really would be calling it a day.

I was surprised that I’d go out of my way to see Natural Voices, given that they often sing at the same gigs as WAM…so normally I just turn up and they’re there. But I’d heard they were premiering something very special tonight and I wanted to hear it. It was a medley of songs from the best film in the world, ever. The Sound of Music.

First though, we settled into our pews with the children fully bribed-up with their toys and magazines. Nathan surprised me by producing a book of his own. Apparently he’d found it in a Little Free Library along the way. You really can find anything in Walthamstow:


There were four different NV choirs singing, including two of the youth choirs so the concert was a masterclass in stage management, shuffling kids off in one direction while bringing on ladies from the other. It was also a glorious blend of different musical styles, from 60s pop to SpongeBob SquarePants. There were a couple of songs that I’ve always loved – “Be My Baby” and “Happy Together”  - and lots of music I didn’t know, like a beautiful arrangement of an Irish folk tune, accompanied only by a violin. The senior youth choir sang “Don’t Stop Me Now”, with one of the ruder lyrics tactically removed, and a couple of more contemporary songs. Reuben was mainly absorbed in his magazine but Eva enjoyed clapping along when she was asked too and told me that she liked the “song wid all the bunny ears”:


The Sound of Music medley was towards the end, with the kids singing “So Long, Farewell” as their goodbye song. It was adorable – especially the line which used to be mine at family get togethers (I suppose I need to get Eva to learn it now….though CousinZ might be ready to take it over before Eva’s had a chance to perform it). I felt emotional at the whole thing, and so did Nathan. Our children are not so easily moved, though Roo later said he liked all the songs and liked hearing the children sing. I might sign him up for a youth choir one of these days. Apparently, talent is not an entry requirement, though enthusiasm helps. That sounds like Roo all over.

The concert finished with “Bring Me Sunshine” and we tumbled out into the not-quite sunshine of 7:30PM. I just had time to take a photo of Crosbie, Stills and Nash House before the bus arrived to take us home:



And that was it for a long, hot and crazy day. It all worked beautifully – not a meltdown from the kids all day and they even slept late Sunday morning. I have no idea why it worked, but it was one of those lucky things. Don’t worry, normal LWAT-rubbishness will be resumed soon.

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July Jollity

The Railway Children

Photo credit Johan Persson

Staring down a day full of school fetes, village fetes and Sound of Music-themed concerts, a thought struck me. What if someone out there was bored? What if they didn’t have a million things to try and cram into every Saturday in July? What if they need some inspiration? Well, I’m throwing some atcha right now.

First up, the newly-extended run of The Railway Children at Kings Cross (pictured above). It was due to close in September but has been extended to January and I’m happy to say I’ll be reviewing it soon. It’s staged on a specially built railway platform, complete with a real life steam train. For those of you who cried buckets over the film (and still have a lingering love of Bernard Cribbens), this is a must-see.  Buy tickets here.

On a slightly self-promoting note, the Walthamstow Garden Party is on next weekend, and the Walthamstow Acoustic Massive is playing on the Saturday, featuring me. But please don’t let that last bit put you off. It’ll be a good day, honest.

Also, opening today is the fab-looking Beach East at the Olympic Park. It’s a massive urban beach featuring  a paddling pool and even a funfair!

Lastly (for now…there’s more to come, but the kids need a sandwich) the Southband Centre is hosting London Wonderground. Southbank festivals are always good fun but a highlight for kids would be the Brat Kids Carnival, from 29th July – 2nd August. Hop along and have a look!


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Ishmael at Cafe Church – 05/07/15



I’ll admit it now – this one may be a little niche. It’ll probably only appeal if you grew up as a Christian in the 1990s…but there seem to be a few of us about so the man in the picture above needs little introduction. He is the legend that is Ishmael.

I have no idea why Ishmael popped into my head as I saw in front of my laptop a few weeks back. Maybe it was work avoidance. Maybe it was prompted by the “Praise and Glories” book that is permanently stationed on top of the piano. I don’t know. But either way, I found myself poring over Ishmael’s brightly coloured website and realised that he was gigging in Chingford at the start of July. Chingford! Like that place near where we live! We had to go.

You see, from the age of ten when I started going to an Evangelical Church, Ishmael was a bit of an idol of mine. Not an idol like an Ashareth pole that you have to keep tearing down, more like the Christian version of Philip Schofield. Only he had the Glory Company in the place of Gordon the Gopher. I had the albums – I even sang on two of the albums (“Jump for Joy” and “Shout for Joy” – technically not Ishmael albums, as he wasn’t on them but certainly endorsed by the man himself). I had the “Children of the Voice” books. I may even have had a t-shirt. He came to our church to throw one of his famous “Praise Parties” and it was so cool that we could even bring non-Christian friends without feeling embarrassed. See, told you he was a legend.

That’s why we found ourselves, on a rainy Sunday morning, hurrying through the back roads of Chingford to find South Chingford Congregational Church. Ish was leading a “cafe church” service, which sounded kinda informal so I wasn’t too stressed about how blantantly late we were. It had started when we got there but no-one gave us disapproving looks. In fact, they just gave us cake. And tea and coffee and pastries. Winner!


Yes, it’s the latest in a long series of “Eva looks sulky with food” pictures. She did enjoy her pastry, honest. It’s just she has to eat food every day and apparently she is bored of this system.

Ishmael kicked things off with a song about greeting each other. We had to stand up, hold hands, sing a verse and then quickly find someone else to hold hands with. Roo enjoyed the dashing about and swinging hands in the air. Another action song quickly followed and then Ish started to give his testimony, in three parts.



You see, the last few years have not been that kind to Ishmael. Freshly ordained as a deacon in Canterbury Catherdral in 2007, he found out he had leukaemia and potentially days to live. Now, you don’t need to tell me too much about the horrors of leukaemia but apparently it was unknown to Ish when he got his diagnosis. When he was talking about it all, he did it with an cheery kind of optimism (“Cancer of the blood? Doesn’t sound too bad”) and even when he got to the part where he prepared himself for death, he didn’t get overly morbid. In fact, he seemed quite prepared to hop on board the Train to Glory right there and then. But it wasn’t to be, and he says that choosing to live was in some ways harder than choosing to die.

*Obviously* I was welling up a bit at all this. Who wouldn’t be?

Mortality is a tricky subject for an all-age service but he kept it light, with plenty of jokes along the way and some of his child-friendly “Bigger Barn” songs. Reuben liked counting the “S-words” in the “Sow and Sow” song and the liturgy was all designed in a way that was very accessible to children – even the confessional prayer and the intercession. (Although the intercession was in five parts, and Roo whispered to me after the first part “But I’ve done my praying already!)

So, a slightly odd combination of life-and-death testimony and brightly animated videos about building a “bigger barn, bigger barn barn bigger barn, build a bigger barn, bigger barn barn, bigger barn, build a bigger barn build a barn barn bigger barn, build a bigger barn, bigger barn”..but if anyone can pull this off, it’s Ishmael. The Bigger Barn song had Greek dancing with it, obviously. At one point, he invited Martin Smith of Deliriou5? to sing along with him and I was only slightly disappointed to realise it was just a recording of him. Now, there’s another 90s Christian idol… Actually, I really liked the Martin Smith song,  ”Oh the Peace”. It’s available on Ishmael’s “Songs and Hymns” album and I may just have to get it.


Towards the end, Ishmael invited the children up to the front for a kind of Christian version of “The Music Man”, where they had to air guitar and play rock drums. Naturally, Roo got really into the air guitaring – he has punkrock in his soul, after all. We didn’t get a good photo of it, which is just as well given I was up there too. He had fun though. The meeting finished with a heart rendition of Ishmael’s breakaway hit “Father God I Wonder”. The non PC version with “Now I am your son”, rather than “Now I am your child”. My sister would be disappointed.

After the service, me and Roo went up to meet the man himself, and get a quick picture (see the insanely grinning people at the top). I had brought my “Praise and Glories” book to get signed but actually..it had already been signed, sometime in the 1990s. Still, I think Ish was touched that I’d kept it for so many years.

So, Ishmael is back from the brink. A little older, a little wearier but he still has that magic that unites adult and child in happy praise. If he’s gigging anywhere near you, you should definitely go along. Or if you have a church, why not make him gig near you by sending him a booking? Now, if only I had one of those church things to call my own…

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An A406 Adventure and Gladstone Park – 04/07/15




If you’ve been enduring this blog for a while, you’ll have noticed that I’m quite fond of significant numbers. But the 400th post was a bit of a washout, so I decided to mark a different number – the 406th – with a trip along the North Circular, aka the A406.  We spend a lot of time on the North Circular, given it’s at the bottom of our road, so we didn’t feel the need to make a special trip from one end to the other. But for once, I wanted to stop somewhere on it.  Not stop in the sense of just not moving anywhere – that’s what you’d call a traffic jam – but stopping in the sense of getting out of the car and exploring a bit.

As it happens, we did both:



I blame AC/DC. Their gig at Wembley caused massive tailbacks and ruled out my first choice of stop – the Welsh Harp reservoir – because “Event Day Parking” was in force. I could only hope the my second choice – Gladstone Park – had space in its car park for us.

The Welsh Harp is just one of many intriguing brown signs off the North Circular. Neasden Temple isn’t far away and of course, there’s the stadium itself. Next to Wembley is one of the two branches of IKEA that line the road, and this one has a sculpture in the shape of a football that changes perspective as you drive past. We haven’t been to that IKEA, but we have been to the one closer to home. There’s also a massive branch of Mothercare, with a soft play inside, although that caused controversy when it was remodelled and subsequently stopped being free to go to. Most excitingly, there’s a B&Q that Nathan took Eva to last autumn and she still talks about it. She calls it the “sweet shop” and says she sat in the trolley and they bought a “toyet seat”. Of all the fun things we’ve done, that’s the one that sticks apparently.

There’s also a few things to see along the road itself  - the Ace Cafe, which is a famous hangout for petrolheads and which I recognised not from “Top Gear” but from “Don’t Tell the Bride”. Then there’s our favourite feature of the North Circular, which is the Protex “Pest of the Week” sign. Every week there’s something different – sometimes a bedbug, sometimes quite simply “flea”. Are you ready for this week’s? Go on then , it’s…


Garden Ant! I’m not sure what the Garden Ant gets for being “Pest of the Week” but I’d hope it was a certificate or something at least.

At this point yesterday, I was slightly distracted because Reuben had just been sick. We’d warned him not to read a comic as we were travelling, so he’d spent half an hour intensely staring at the pictures instead and was surprised when this produced the same effect. Poor boy, I do feel for him, as someone who was travel sick for the entirety of my childhood and quite a bit of my pregnancies. We resolved to stop as soon as possible but he weakly said he’d be OK to go as far as the park. Our end destination yesterday was Reading, with the park a fanciful stop on the way but, 17km away, it began to take on a new urgency.

So of course we hit more traffic. Then we were due to turn off so stopped behind a bus which was itself stopped behind a bus, only to realise that we weren’t turning at all and we could have happily been in the next lane over. Still, we did eventually reach the turn just past Brent Cross and were immediately confused by a roundabout that in no way resembled a roundabout. I mean, what is this??:


What are the triangles at the corners? Still, the vine-covered restaurant on the side looked nice. Somehow we managed to turn into the correct road -Dollis Hill Lane – but with no idea where the carpark for Gladstone Park was, or how to get into it, I panicked. We turned into a road optimistically named Park View Rd but somehow that ended us up on the wrong side of a railway line in a cul-de-sac. We could get into the park but the car couldn’t and we couldn’t park on the street due to the aforementioned Wembley event day parking restrictions. By now, I’d been holding a box of appley sick for a really long time, so I popped out and discreetly disposed of it in a patch of nettles before speeding off in the car back the way we came.

Another go around the roundabout and we were back to where we went wrong. This time we went straight across an actual roundabout onto Dollis Hill Lane and the car park was to our right, immediately after the roundabout. We’d been so close! Still, we were there now. Phew. And there was loads of space in the car park. Double phew.


Roo was still a bit wobbly when we got out of the car but soon perked up with the prospect of some fresh air and a run around. The park looked massive, and we set off down the path with no idea where it led:


I wasn’t confident about finding the play area but Roo assured me that he could make his own fun – “We could climb trees, play hide and seek, play superheroes…” but really, he wanted something to play on. Luckily we found a fallen tree almost straight away:



The stump at the end seemed to be a kind of makeshift bin:



Along the way, we paused at the Holocaust Memorial:



before climbing up the hill to try and spot the play area. It looked like a walled garden at the top, but we didn’t go in as we’d seen a signpost that might be helpful. Only it wasn’t helpful. It pointed out to Dollis Hill Lane (in two different directions) and Dollis Hill station (also in two different directions) but nothing along the lines of “toilets” or “play area”. The only potential was the ambiguous-sounding “Pleasure Grounds”.



The Pleasure Grounds seemed largely taken up with a funfair but what was that in the shadow of the Big Dipper? A playground? Hooray!



Nathan was clearly feeling in an arty mood yesterday, so the following pictures (and the one at the top) are courtesy of his recently discovered “Sin City” filter:





My photos are a little more pedestrian:





It always amazes me how sulky Eva can look while eating crisps on a bouncy thing. She’s a master of the sulk.

I was quite happy to see that we were in Brent. I know very little about this part of London, but don’t they have a cheerful logo?:



The playground was what you’d expect – three climbing frames, two lots of swings, some bouncy things  - and it was a little faded. Just outside, there was a cool mound to climb, with guide ropes and an eagle on the top:





There was also a zipwire but it seemed to be out of action, so Nathan improvised a “Daddy Zipwire” for Roo instead:



Reuben didn’t like it much. To be fair to Nathan, he was only trying to make it authentic by stopping on the way back and tipping him off, but the net effect was a pouty  Roo saying “Daddy kept dropping me”. It was almost time to get back to the car and onto our barbecue in Reading but first we needed toilets. I asked a friendly local where they were and got told to head over the other side of the hill for the cafe toilets. A much easier solution was presenting itself though. There was a local festival next to the funfair and they had loos. Surely we could pose as Brent residents to take advantage of the facilities? As long as I had nothing about my person that betrayed us:


Ah well, we got away with it.

The walk back to the car was full of photo opportunities, as we saw Wembley Stadium on the horizon:


And took a panorama or two:



Then there was just time for a spot of that tree-climbing Reuben had promised:



For Eva-nutrition-spotters she is now sulkily clutching a chorizo wrap.

Soon after we got back onto the North Circular, we turned off onto the A40, which is another interesting road and full of cool architecture like the Hoover Building. I’m particularly intrigued by the Northolt and Greenford Country Park, which is a new and man-made park built out of rubble from the Wembley Stadium development. But that’s all for another day except this bit of excitement on the same bit of road of the way home:



Argh, is that the Hoover Building ON FIRE? No, the fire was at a warehouse some way behind it, but that didn’t stop the hipster cyclists crowding onto the road bridge to take photos. Someone even stopped in the inside lane with their hazards on to get a better shot than I did. Apparently, it was a 100-firefighter kind of job. Don’t say there’s never any drama on LWAT.

So, that’s the North Circular. I’ll be exploring it more next time we have somewhere to get to but not in a hurry. Or next time Reuben’s sick. One or the other…


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Britpop Tots – 28/06/15



If you, like me, are of a Certain Age then you might find it frightening to realise that it’s been 20 years since the blur v oasis battle that marked the height of Britpop. Yes, 20 years since Jarvis was forced to ban that sick stunt, 20 years since a group of Irish upstarts sang about teenage love, 20 years since the last time  John Power sold a record. Supergrass are no longer young and the jury’s out on whether they still run green.  Kenicke took some criticism from Nathan to heart and went their separate ways, with Lauren Laverne becoming a DJ and Emmy-Kate still fuming over being told her band were “really, really average”. So, how to mark the anniversary? Well, we’re not young any more either and so a Sunday morning toddler disco in Peckham seemed just the ticket.

But first we had to get there. If there’s one thing older than Noel Gallagher’s Brit Award it’s the trains that are now running on the Chingford Line. Yes, TfL, Abellio ran away with all the good ones…My heart is breaking for you. Now, could I please get to Peckham on a Sunday morning? No? Why then, I will defy you and get there anyway…a mere hop on a bus to Leytonstone, followed by the Central Line, the Jubilee Line and the Overground. Look at Eva enjoying the South London views:



Of course, she noticed me taking pictures of her and started to pose:


This was one of many. Still, it made the journey pass quickly.

Against all the odds, we got there not just on time but early. I’d promised Nathan a coffee, so we sat in the not-quite-open cafe and had a couple of not-quite-white flat whites.



They take card by the way…it’s the kind of place you assume wouldn’t. But they do. Hooray! Let’s add some chocolate cake to that order:



Fuelled on caffeine and sugar, it was time to dance. The kids were particularly excited by the “disco fingers”- little lights you could wear on your finger for portable discoing. I was excited to hear some tunes I hadn’t danced to for a long time (“Sandstorm”, anyone?) as well as some timeless Britpop classics. All hands were in the air for “Parklife”. And also for “Design for Life” but in a different kind of way. It’s hard to punch the air and shout about getting drunk when it’s 11:15 on a Sunday morning and you’re dancing with your 3 year old. Still, all the children appreciated a bit of a bounce to Supergrass. We used to play “I Should Coco” to Reuben when he was a baby and I’d like to think he remembers that. But really, I think he was just taken by the rhythm.


I was taken with the way that Becky had matched The NimbleTot’s dress to her bird puppet. Eva, meanwhile, had taken all the inflatable microphones:


As ever, I failed to get any non-blurry photos of them dancing as..yknow…they move quickly. But here’s Roo pausing to fix the elastic band on his disco finger:


After half an hour or so, we were all a little sweaty so it was good to sit down at the craft table and have a rest. Becky had been busily making Britpop-themed stick men to inspire the kids:



Can ya tell who they are? Nathan went with the theme and made the cover of blur’s “Magic Whip”:


While Eva was mainly crafting herself:



All this was to a soundtrack of Marion, Pulp and The Charlatans. I had to go back in and dance when they played “Sale of the Century” by Sleeper and “King of the Kerb” by Echobelly as I’d requested those bands (my first two gigs! 20 years ago next year!). It all went very quickly and I missed the Longpigs because I was faffing around taking children to the toilet. As a matter of fact, toilets like to be scented cause they don’t like the smell of themselves…. Like last time, I wanted to dance more than the kids did and they wanted to sit down more than I did (this is a recent development…I swear Roo never used to like sitting down).  I wish there was a way to combine the two a bit more and I definitely wish it was a bit more local. But we had a fab time, reliving our misspent youth dancing to Britpop in darkened rooms. And the kids who weren’t even born in the Year 2000? They liked the bubbles and the disco fingers…as something for the weekend goes it was supersonic. I certainly won’t be burning this disco down…



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Yonderland Series Launch – 27/06/15



As a mother I have many failings – we don’t need to go into those. As a blogger, I have quite a lot of failings. As a London Transport geek, however, I pride myself on having very few. But I have one recurring weak spot that has inconvenienced me almost countless times. By that I mean, I could count them if I really wanted to but choose not to. And that’s the fact that Tottenham Court Road tube is closed for Central Line services until December 2015. As we boarded the red line, my plans for a swift journey to Soho were thwarted – not that Roo cared, as he was enjoying the way that Central Line windows act like fairground mirrors and give you a “double-head”. He was constantly amused by this, which in turn amused the green-haired cyberpunk opposite us. I cursed myself a little for the extra walking we’d have to do from Holborn, but on the upside we found a very quiet branch of McDonalds opposite the tube, for our customary mother-son bonding lunch:



Judge away, judgers. Yes, that’s a Fruit Shoot.

After we’d had what passed as food, and maybe a hair or two in my “Big Tasty”, we wandered towards Soho. Roo was fascinated by a giant red lumpy thing at St Giles’ Circus and tried to sit in it but it was a bit slippery so he kept falling out.



Then we walked down Denmark St and marvelled together at all the sparkly guitars. One day, my son, you’ll be responsible enough to own more than a cheap ukulele. Or maybe not, given that Nathan taught him how to do “punk rock” with guitars. There are many things we regret teaching our kids and that’s just one.

We got to Soho a little early for the “Yonderland” screening we were going to, and I’d had in mind that we would wander around Pride for a bit and see what was going on. But basically nothing was…seemed we were a little early for that too. So we popped to the Living Room to see some friends from church and hung out in Soho Square, where Roo befriended this fellow:



Then it was “Yonderland” time! We found the Soho Hotel, down Richmond Mews and made our way past the giant cat to the screening room.


Now, I’m not overly familiar with “Yonderland” and must admit I hadn’t seen the first series. Still, when Mumsnet sent me the information, I thought it sounded like a lot of fun. It’s a mixture of live action and puppets, some of which were waiting to greet us when we got to the screening room. We grabbed a glass of mango juice each and settled down to see what this thing was all about:


So, to sum the plot up I’ll borrow from the press release, seeing as they’ve put it better than I ever could:

“Yonderland follows the adventures of mum, Debbie Maddox, aka The Chosen One as she discovers a whole other world in her kitchen cupboard.

 In series two, settling into her role as Chosen One, Debbie of Maddox (the ‘of’ is optional) tackles more tricky tasks for the Council of Elders, while fending off Negatus and Imperatrix’s attempts to get rid of her. Then there’s hubby Pete, who is growing increasingly suspicious about the blue sparks coming from the kitchen cupboard…”
It’s essentially fantasy but coming from a very real-life setting (in one episode, Pete has an electrician out to try and fix the blue sparks). If that reminds you of “Labyrinth”, you’re not alone. In the Q&A afterwards, the cast/writers admitted that the Goblin King’s influence was strong in this one, and that they’d love to have David Bowie as a guest star. Cast-slash-writers, you say? Why yes, the team that created the show also star in it  - and that’s the core of Mathew Baynton, Simon Farnaby, Martha Howe-Douglas, Jim Howick, Laurence Rickard and Ben Willbond. That’s generally a good sign – that the writers have enough conviction in the material to front it themselves. It’s an unusual move on a children’s show, but if you consider the comedy greats – Monty Python, League of Gentlemen – it happens all the time.
So, is it a kids’ show? I’m not sure. Roo certainly enjoyed it but it had a few jokes that only adults would get (like a gag about a “happy ending” to a massage). The creators said it was a family show and that’s about right  - there’s plenty here to entertain all ages.
In terms of style, what it most reminded me of was “The Mighty Boosh” – the real mixed with the surreal, the deadpan jokes. I wasn’t surprised afterwards to find out that Simon Farnaby had appeared in “The Boosh” and was working on material with Julian Barratt. I was more surprised to find out that he was Sloman in “The Midnight Beast” – I’m totally kicking myself for not checking earlier and getting a photo with him. I love the Beast. And the Boosh, as it happens.
That CV might give you a taste of the kooky humour that infuses “Yonderland”. The main character, Debbie, essentially plays it straight while the chaos erupts around her. It’s packed with pop culture references – from “Boogie Nights” to The Smiths (the first episode is called “Panic on the Streets of Yonderland”). There’s a pop act called Michael, Jack’s Son, and another who are entirely Blue. There’s a “Sherlock” character (the Cumberbatch version) and a Poirot puppet. And a pastiche of “Lord of the Flies”. Yet within itself, it retains its own identity. The costume design is – intentionally – all over the place. One of the council of Elders wears a Tudor ruff, another is dressed (or undressed) as a 60s dropout – there’s a strong Steampunk aesthetic to the villagers but at the same time, the DJ who is MCing the riots is straight out of 2015′s South London. Some people might not like this. Some might find it messy rather than charming, but I appreciated the carefully-engineered madness of it all. Some of the jokes are completely throwaway – a man dressed as Sharpe is selling “Sean’s Beans” but only for a second. Again, it’s good that they’re confident enough of their material to pile it all in, not worrying about keeping some back for a third series (and there should be a third series).
When I asked Roo what he enjoyed, he said “All of it” but a little further probing revealed that he liked the demons the best, especially when one put on “night vision goggles” that caused everything to go dark and so he stumbled around, walking into things. That sounds about right for Roo. He was flagging during the Q&A so we didn’t stay around for too long afterwards, despite the yummy cakes and mini-burgers. He enjoyed the show but was in need of a change of scene.
And what a change of scene! We exited into the very bright daylight of Pride, and all around us were men in nothing but their pants. So, an average day in Soho really. Roo liked looking at all the rainbow coloured balloons:
And I liked this neon shop we found:
But I had a destination in mind, which was happily on the way back to Oxford Circus tube. Our friends Big Fish Little Fish were playing the Family area of Pride, in Golden Square, and we were on course to catch the end of their set. As long as we didn’t get distracted by the rest of the family area, with its rainbow-coloured floor and giant games…
We didn’t. We just about made it in time for Roo to have a dance on the floor:
Don’t mock. They’re his moves. I spotted Natasha BFLF and had a chat with her while Hannah BFLF helped Roo to make an X-Men belt. I *think* it started life as a headband, but these things matter little to a boy like mine. Natasha darted off to fire a glitter cannon and left me in charge of her drink, but I’m pleased to say I did  the honourable thing and handed it over to Hannah when Roo, inevitably, did get distracted by the rest of the family area, with its rainbow-coloured floor and giant games. Here he is playing Jenga:
I apologise to whoever owned the Jenga, as Roo also found a crayon and decided to customise the blocks. You’d think he’d draw superheroes on them but no, it was number bonds:
True story. We left soon after that, but not before bagging a free activity pack from Asda which kept him quiet all the way back to Walthamstow. So, a fun day out at the screening and just a little bit of Pride as well. Thanks to Mumsnet for inviting us!
Yonderland starts on Sky One on 13th July with a double bill at 8PM,  including “Panic on the Streets of Yonderland”
I am a member of the Mumsnet Bloggers Network Research Panel, a group of parent bloggers who have volunteered to review products, services, events and brands for Mumsnet. I have not paid for the product or to attend an event. I have editorial control and retain full editorial integrity
Posted in Reviewing the Situation | Tagged , | 2 Comments

The Power of Poison – 21/06/15



Well, it’s been an interesting week. On Wednesday night I baked some brownies and, waiting for them to cool down, wrote a silly little song about the recent train troubles on the Chingford line.  Then Nathan filmed it, we stuck it on Facebook and YouTube and I cut the brownies up to send them into Nathan’s office the next day. The day after that, I was in the local paper. “Woman bitches about late train” is news around here. Don’t believe me? Have a look here.

Luckily, my new found notoriety didn’t stop us from leaving the house today. We didn’t even have to fight off any paparazzi as we tapped in at the station. And that’s just as well, because we had an exciting new exhibition to go to at the Old Truman Brewery.

First though, church. Then a post-church meeting which saw our kids dragging their Godparents off to the park. A park near Liverpool Street? Why, that’s mighty crazy. You may be wondering where this park is. Well, sorry to disappoint…it’s less of a park and more of a building-site – plus-sales-pitch. Presenting….Finsbury Circus!

Yes, the green space is a shadow of its former self as a huge chunk has been scythed off for the Crossrail site. But those Godparents had the kids convinced that it was a source of fun second only to Disneyland. There was a bandstand:


And somehow that managed to amuse them for an hour or so. Godparent magic. I was more amused by the “Crossrail Living Wall”, where a few plants on the hoardings were somehow meant to compensate for the loss of the 1920s bowling lawn and the other delights that used to be in a rare green space in the City. But apparently it’s meant to be restored some time next yearish. I won’t hold my breath. Why would I when that living wall is producing such lovely oxygen for me?


Anyway, it was 3PM and Nathan and I hadn’t eaten, so we grabbed a bite at Benito’s Hat, just outside Liverpool Street. Reuben was excited at the prospect of a “Taco Tuesday”, even though it was a Sunday.


I went for the Balsamic Pork Torta, which was a bit of a squidgy mess. But, ohhhhh such a tasty squidgy mess! I’m drooling a little just thinking about it. If only they’d included a few extra napkins. We perched on the steps of the rotunda to eat, which was appropriate as we were about to do our own little Backpassages of Spitalfields tour.


Those evenings following Steve and Alan around had paid off, as we kept the kids entertained with tales of Jack the Ripper’s car park and Spooky Hawksmoor’s church. Reuben, wide-eyed, looked at the church and said “Did one person really build that all by themselves?” We said yes, because…yknow…it’s fun to lie to your kids now and then. “Wow” said he “It must have taken him three whole days!”. Indeed. And he didn’t even stop for lunch.

Soon enough, we found our way to the back of Brick Lane and the “Power of Poison” exhibition which, you may have discerned, it actually the point of this post. Very friendly staff checked our coats and bags into the free cloakroom and we headed into a darkened room to find out more about poison.


And then we left again. Apparently there was something about the darkness that totally freaked Eva out, and she took one look and ran straight back out. Don’t worry, we eventually persuaded her that it wasn’t all “too dary”…but not before another escape attempt and a slightly accelerated move through the first few rooms. So, we didn’t get to watch the film and we barely lingered in the jungle room, although she did like the orangutans hanging from the trees. She calmed down once I’d located something she’d like. Butterflies!


Obviously, they’re like poisonous butterflies but we didn’t need to tell her that. All we needed was to be able to put her down without her bolting. She said the butterflies were pretty and from then on, it was smooth sailing. A word of caution, though, if you’re planning on taking a sensitive 3-year-old – they might have a similar reaction. A 6-year-old boy, on the other hand has no fear.


The next section moved started to look at poison in literature, with an interesting explanation of why the Mad Hatter was mad – it’s to do with the mercury involved in the hat-making process. As someone who married into the “milliner” family, I’d say that explains a lot. Both kids recognised Alice for the Disney-figure pack that Roo got yesterday and so were excited to see her. Another Disney favourite was waiting just around the corner…


Snow White! Now, you’d think this “borrow’d likeness of shrunk death” version of Snow White would freak out a girl who was only familiar with the sparkly one on her synthetic Snow White dress. But no, she loved her. We told her not to cross the rope-line, so she just sat under the sign and looked at her. Later on, she’d come back to her. And again and again. Clearly Eva’s favourite part of the whole thing. On the way to Snow White, we’d passed a few other exhibits and I’d like to have had a bit more time to read all the signs. After all, you aint seen nothing like the…


The children also enjoyed the story of the rabbit who first brought death into the world. Here, he is, ReaperBunny himself. Isn’t he sinister?


Eva loved him. She also loved the tarantula. You’ve got to wonder what goes on in her head that some green writing on a black wall reduces her to tears but she’s not even a little freaked out by this snake:


Oh, and that’s a real, live tarantula I mentioned just then. Obviously behind glass, but the spider is just one of the actual deadly animals in the exhibit. Luckily the snake wasn’t real, and the bunny may have been real at some point but wasn’t any more.


Round the corner from Snow White was one of my favourite bits –  ”The Enchanted Forest”.  It’s hard to explain how this works, so bear with me but essentially it was a giant book about deadly plants (one of which was growing in our garden last year…eeek!) and the pages were blank when you first turned them and then suddenly filled with content. I assume it was a data projector hidden in the ceiling, but it was ever so clever. There were even red dots that you could press to animate the pages and to unveil hidden bits. The photo I have doesn’t really do it any justice.

Next up were some cabinets, showing the part that poison plays in literature. A selection of great books were discussed, including Harry Potter, complete with Marauders’ Map:


Lemony Snicket:


And some superheroes, just to make Roo happy:


The next room was about solving poison mysteries. That was lots of fun. Three mysteries were set up, in 3D form with clues scattered through the scene. In front of each mystery were a line of iPads, which you could use to find out what had happened and solve the mystery. There was a dead owl, a sick sea captain and a dog that Nathan thought was dead but actually went on to live a long and fulfilling life. Phew. We spent ages in there, with me, Roo and Nathan solving the mysteries and Eva pressing buttons at random…and running back to the Snow White room.


We were nearing the end by now, with the last room home to a coral reef projection and the aforementioned tarantula. But right at the end, there was a fun activity to do – make your own souvenir postcard using a selection of glittery sands. What you do is peel the stickers off your (free) postcard, scatter sand over the top and ta-da….a bespoke piece of art! It was slightly fiddly getting the stickers off, but even my “blunt instrument” technique on mine and the kids’ resulted in some pretty postcards, and the kids did the sand bits all by themselves


. Nathan’s, meanwhile, was darn near a masterpiece:


While we were busy making postcards, a man in a white coat came up to us and told us that he was starting a presentation soon, in the mysteries room. Roo and I went, as Eva was having another stubborn moment and refusing to leave the gift shop. Her loss (and Nathan’s!) because it was very entertaining – he told us the story of a man who’d been poisoned by his grandson, and how a pioneering chemist called James Marsh managed to prove the existence of arsenic in some used coffee grounds. And how then it was thrown out of court because the jury didn’t really know what forensic evidence was. All great fun, and we learnt a lot about arsenic too…or “inheritance powder”, as he called it.

Then it really was time to go, with the kids flaking almost as much as we were. It’s a great exhibition, possibly more suitable to Roo’s age than Eva’s but they both enjoyed it, after the initial freak out. I believe it’s on till 6th September, so don’t hang around too long to go!

Disclaimer: I was given free tickets to the exhibition in return for this post. All opinions remain honest and my own.

Posted in Token attempts at culture (museums) | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Testing Times

roo bday

Roo is 6 today. Look at him, all proud in his new Captain America costume. Ready to go and beat up some communists or something equally patriotic. He’s had an exhausting weekend, all running about with friends, playing with new Lego and eating cake.  Which is surely how a 6-year-old’s birthday weekend should be. Or should it? Would a responsible mother have kept him at home, rested and quiet in time for his first ever national screening test, which happens to fall this week? Probably.

But of course I didn’t. Because he’s good at phonics. The test isn’t strenuous and he probably won’t even know he’s doing it. So I’ve barely even done the prep I’m meant to have done for it. I just kinda hope he’ll go in and ace it.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t irk me. The whole idea of having to prep a freshly 6ed-year-old for a standardized test seems a little crazy. It’s not like he goes to a super-competitive private school, where everyone is learning Mandarin with a personal tutor from the age of 2. Just a standard state primary which, like every other school in the country, is under pressure to deliver results better, earlier, faster…and a phonics test at 6 is the tip of the super-pressurized iceberg. I don’t know what would happen to an iceberg if you super-pressurized it, so don’t ask. I only know that if you pressurize a child too much there’s a risk they’ll fall apart. Just like that metaphor.

It’s not standardized testing as such that I object to, it’s just the superfluousness of this particular one. What does the phonics test tell a class teacher that, by the summer of Year 1, they didn’t already know? And when did phonics become an end in itself, rather than just a useful tool for teaching kids to read? Why not test how well they read at the age of 6, rather than how well they can decode nonsense words? You can standardize the hell out of a reading test, ask comprehension questions and whatever else you like – just don’t put all the effort into phonics when they’ve already gone past that point. The driving test doesn’t measure you on how well you move the gearstick and put your foot on the pedals…it tests what you do with the driving competence you’ve acquired. Reading is so much more than phonics, and what’s needed is a holistic way of teaching that equips kids for every eventuality, not just decoding sounds.

Because phonics is simply not how adults read. When adults encounter an unfamiliar word, they guess by context, mentally compare it to similar words, break it down into components of meaning etc…the last thing they would do would be to sound it out aloud. In fact, you can read words perfectly well without ever having to know how to pronounce them. Which is just as well in this language known as Crazy English. But more on that later.

Say an adult has led a pretty normal life, is literate and educated but has never had the misfortune to live in a damp-infested house or the great fortune to own a copy of the Argos catalogue. In those circumstances, they may never have come across the word “dehumidifier”. But suppose they do one day, and have to try to work out what it means. I imagine it’d go a bit like this:

Step 1 – Use context. Someone posts on Facebook that “I have just bought a Victorian house and ohmygollygosh it’s riddled with damp. Anyone have a dehumidifier they could lend me?” From that, it’d be pretty easy to deduce that a dehumidifier is something that stops Victorian houses being damp. And then you could move on with your life.

Suppose there’s no context? Just a post saying “Dehumidifier for sale”. You have two more tools you can whip out.

Step 2 – Comparing it to similar words. This one isn’t always helpful. You might look at it and squint and think it looks a bit like “defiler” or “defier” or any number of words which have nothing to do with getting the musty smell out of your laundry. So you move on to Step 3…

Step 3 – Breaking it into semantic units. This is something most native English speakers could do without even thinking, and most students of English learn to do. I’d start at the end, taking the -er to mean either a person or a thing that does something…like a baker or a cooker. Expanding a bit to take in the -ifier bit, that tends to involve a process of some sort. A change from one thing to another. So, an amplifier is something that amplifies, which is a change from a quiet noise to a loud noise. We can then assume our dehumidifier changes something in some way. The next thing to take out would be “humid”, which most people would know the meaning of and then “de-” means it stops something being something. Our completed meaning-word would then be “A thing or person that changes something by stopping it being humid”. How to work out whether it’s a thing or a person? You can’t. That’s OK – even when it come to semantics, you still need to live dangerously once in a while.

The amazing thing is that native English speakers really can do this in a twinkle of an eye. So, there’s no need to sound it out and if you did using the phonics charts, you’d probably come up with something like “deh” like the first bit of “dead”, “um” like “bum”, “id” like “did”, “if” as the sight word “if”, “ie” like the phase three grapheme of “pie” and then a nice big “rrrr” on the end. Try saying that quickly…


I’m not saying that phonics is useless. I’m really not.  You have to start somewhere with reading and phonics is a useful way of starting, of knowing that the “a” in “cat” is the same as the “a” in “had”, but English is not a phonetic language. It’s not regular and predictable. It’s a wild mishmash of a language where a single cluster – ough – can be enough to make a non-native speaker faint (think “through”, “though”, “enough”, “borough”, “thought”…) I’m sure that phonics would work well in a language like German or Spanish, where phonetic variations are rare and logical but English is not one of those. There are a literal handful of letters in the alphabet that only have one pronunciation in English. I think I counted four. So, trying to say that the sound /e/ represents all letter “e”s is like trying to say that the Borough of Kensington and Chelsea represents all London Boroughs. It’s just not true. I think of phonics as trying to attach a lead to a dog that’s already running off across the dog park in pursuit of a rabbit or maybe a smaller dog. You might be able to impose a phonic system onto English but the chances of catching English and pinning it down to get that lead on is pretty remote when there are rabbits to be caught.

You thought the iceberg metaphor lost its way? Well, get a load of that last one. Really, I’m just checking to see if anyone’s still reading.

I suppose where I’m getting to in this whole mess of a linguistic rant is that I don’t think this particular bit of testing is worth the bit of paper the aliens are printed on. It’s not Roo’s school’s fault – they are doing as they are told – but combined with the new, condensed curriculum (Year 2 targets are now Year 1 targets) and the new system of grading schools as “Requires Improvement” if they fall below average, it all lands a heap of pressure on kids who really should just be doing what I described in the first paragraph – eating cake and playing with lego. I’m not going to even start on the unmathsishness of requiring every school to be above average but hey, I bet you just understood “unmathsishness”, even though I clearly just made it up. Ooh, literacy magic!

It all feels like a series of nails in the coffin of childhood. Five pieces of homework every week, on top of five intensive school days do not make for happy children. They make for stressed, nervy, fragile children. Roo often gets to a point where his voice wobbles, he gets confused and he can’t form his numbers any more and at that point, damn it, I’m switching on the telly or chucking him into the garden with a sword of some kind, to run around and shout “Raaargh”. I refuse to push him past breaking point as there’s absolutely nothing to be gained from it. It won’t help Roo’s generation compete with China to build our economy. It’ll help them line the pockets of therapists. Which does help the economy in a way, I suppose.

The alternative is to homeschool, which is the last thing I would ever consider doing given that I would be really rubbish at it. I don’t have the patience or the inclination to teach and I really like the social interaction he gets at school and, quite frankly, the way they take him off me for *hours* at a time so that I can hold down a job or, on a Friday, drink gin all day and watch videos of David Tennant on YouTube.

(I currently have Eva to deal with on a Friday, but one day that will be my reality. Bring it on.)

So, I’m not looking to make any radical changes but I feel a bit stuck. He’s in the system, Eva’s in the system, this is how it is now. And I truly believe that this last year or so has taken the pressure to an unprecedented level in modern schooling. I never had homework as a kid. I never had tests. Last year’s Year Ones weren’t having to achieve the things that this year’s Year Ones are. Roo’s class in Reception last year didn’t have to achieve the things that Rabittkin1′s Reception class have to achieve this year. It’s all kinds of crazy and there’s nothing I can do except rant. Oh, and vote…but I tried that and it didn’t work so I’m back to the ranting.

I know people will find plenty to argue with on this post and I’m happy for you to argue away. But if you don’t currently have a child that’s too small for the rides at Alton Towers but is big enough to be “work-stressed”, then have a little empathy for those of us that do.

To end on a happy note, here’s a nice picture of Roo enjoying his birthday breakfast. Happy birthday boy, and good luck on your big test…



Roo bday 2

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IndieTots – 31/05/15



Our trip out on Sunday was not just to Peckham but into a new era.  Yes, following the last day of Abellio Greater Anglia was, strangely enough, the first day of TfL. And we got to Highams Park to observe..nothing. No changes, apart from a snazzy new orange uniform on the staff. How disappointing. But by the time we got to St James Street, things really were on the up. No lifts had magically appeared overnight but these orange signs had:


Whoop! Hackney Downs had the same, Bethnal Green didn’t and Liverpool Street seemed to have a newly designated “Overground” zone on platforms 1-4. Is this progress? We’ll see…

Of course, the second part of the journey, from Shoreditch to Peckham was on a well-established Orange Line. That doesn’t mean there are lifts at Peckham Rye though…in fact, there are a lot of steps. Luckily I knew about those already because we’d been there a few days back. Unluckily, Eva had forgotten how to walk, so we had to carry her buggy down with her in it, sedan-chair style. I’m not saying she’s awkward…but she is.

First challenge on leaving the station was finding The Nines, where IndieTots is held. We only went wrong once before finding this promising-looking doorway:


And from there, we just followed the signs:


And the street art:


When we got in, the kids were drawn to the craft table straight away. The disco was in the back room, but first there were flags to be made. Eva’s was especially blingy.


Once they’d finished their crafts, I persuaded Roo to come for a dance. He liked the inflatable guitars and microphones, although I think his approach was a little too “punkrock” for the gentle indie soundtrack. Here he is, recreating the “London Calling” cover:


He also enjoyed catching bubbles with his microphone and doing some crazy dance moves with NimbleBecky.


Eva was unsure about it all at first, and then her best friend in the world turned up. Suddenly, life was a lot better and they had a little boogie together to The Beatles and Squeeze.


I should probably tell you at this point that I got very little in the way of usable photos. The light was fairly dim and those children just keep moving, so most of the shots I took were a little like this:


Or this. More punkrock, I believe:


Roo’s mad dancing takes a lot of energy, so it was good that there was pile of beanbags for him to rest on:


It was a tad surreal, dancing on a Sunday morning but it was fun. There was the café space in the front, for crafts, coffee and sausage rolls and we did spend a lot of time there, trying to get the kids to stop making things and come for a dance. So, I didn’t get as much partying time as I would have liked but that’s what happens when you involve children in any sort of plan. They scupper it. BunnyMummy said that last time there had been music piped to the craft area too so you could tell what was happening in the disco, even if your child was busy making two versions of Nick Fury:


It could also have done with being a touch longer, for those same reasons..but as it happened, I had a choir rehearsal to get to so it’s probably just as well I didn’t settle in too much.  Besides, Eva was hitting the wall. Towards the end, she lay down on the floor and refused to move in what we can only assume was a tribute to the “Just” video:


Time to haul her home. On the way back, I got to see those changes at St James Street in more detail. The fabulous TfL upgrades include this amazing integrated Oyster-reader and  departure board:


The outside stairs have also been blocked off, funnelling everyone through the ticket gates…a technique that is working oh-so-well at Walthamstow Central. And then there’s the revised timetable:


I have high hopes for the TfL takeover but it seems to be having an issue or two, even a couple of days in. Watch this space for more updates…and in the meantime, book your tickets for the next Nimble event. It’s Britpop themed! 28th June, 11-12:30. Get ready to dance round the room to the sound of your corduroy flares…


Posted in Creating precious childhood memories or something (days out) | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Lordship Lane Recreation Ground – LWAT is 400!


As you might have noticed, it’s been a bit of a full-on half term, both in blogging terms and actually getting-out-of-the-house-and-doing-stuff terms. Funnily enough, they always seem to go together. So when I was contemplating how to mark the 400th post this weekend, my brain just began a slow shutdown. Every idea I had seemed like too much effort – a day in W4? Oh but, that’s miles away. A trip down the A400? Well, we covered a lot of that road on the 200th post. Riding the four rail lines that are just about to be handed over to TfL tomorrow? That sounds tiring. And we spend a lot of time on one of them anyway. In the end, I decided to just go somewhere we were planning to go anyway and somehow shoehorn a 4-ish theme into it.

In superhero parlance, the Thor Hundreth post would be Loki.

(Get it? I’m so proud of myself…and I have definitely spent too much time with Reuben lately)

As it happened, we did start our journey on one of those lines that tomorrow magically appear on the tube map. So, here’s Highams Park station on its very last day under Abellio Greater Anglia. End of an era etc.



I neglected to take one in Chingford because I was busy running for a bus that wasn’t leaving for another ten minutes. Our clue should have been when we barged past the driver of that bus, who was happily ambling along.  Which bus, you ask? Why the most appropriate bus for a 4-based celebration – the 444. From E4. Four fours. Nice. Obviously, the 400 bus would have been even more appropriate, but it doesn’t exist. Also, we did that bus thing last year. Besides, this bus went somewhere I really wanted to go, albeit in a long and winding way. No wonder it didn’t seem overly popular:



Well, we were keen travellers even if no-one else was. Eva pressed her nose to the glass and told me all the exciting things she could see out of the window. Like a car. And a tree. And Chingford. Lots and lots of bits of Chingford.



You see, like so many 3-digit buses, the 444 likes to take its time and wander around a bit. It’s not a particularly efficient way of getting about if you start from Chingford station….but if you’re going to get a bus just for the sake of it, you should do it properly. There may have been mutters of dissention from Nathan when we’d been travelling for half an hour and a sign suggested that we were three quarters of a mile from home. But luckily, he and Roo were sitting miles away from me and Eva so I couldn’t hear him moaning.



It took a while, but we eventually left Chingford behind for an exciting game of Twister with the North Circular. I always find the idea of a London bus on a dual carriageway bizarre, but this is life in Zone 4. We ducked and dived around the road, went alongside it and I think onto it for a short while. The view from the window varied from leafy greenness to industrial scrapyards. And inside the bus, the view was mostly of Eva’s sparkly new shoes:



See, I told you they were impractical. Gotta dig the hand-me-down pirate socks though.

We were coming into Tottenham, which always has an odd kinda feel to it. I don’t think it’s ever been in the news for anything very positive, and it seems like a place that gentrification has passed by. Which naturally means it’s home to the actual hipsters – the struggling musicians and artists who really do live there before it’s cool. Give it a few years and it’ll be Hackney Part 2.

There were more dissenting noises from the boys at the front regarding the length of this bus journey, so I helpfully bluetoothed Nathan a screenshot of the route map. I was relieved that it was Nathan I sent it to, as his phone wasn’t named so it could have been anyone on the bus with an XPeria. It’s not the most embarrassing photo to send to someone by mistake though, and actually it verges on useful.


What doesn’t verge on useful, however, is the stop that we were getting off at being mysteriously missing from the IRL  bus route. If anyone else is attempting to get to Lordship Lane Recreation Ground on the 444, be aware…the “Lordship Lane” stop just doesn’t exist. Get off at Granville Road and walk. That’s what Eva told me to do and gosh, I regret not listening to her.

For yes, Lordship Lane Recreation Ground was where we were headed. It doesn’t sound overly exciting but it’s got some remarkable features. The main draw for us was the Model Traffic Area – dating from the 30s, this was a section of the park laid out like a little town for kids to ride their bikes and scooters around. It’s still there, revamped with shiny new signs and it’s huge. In fact, the whole park is pretty vast:



You can kinda forget that you’re in urban North London when all you can see in front of you is green. And they have bridges that made Roo want to play Pooh Sticks:



(Yes, I know that’s Eva…Roo didn’t stay still long enough)

It is a very pretty water feature:


Let’s not talk about the slightly funky smell. Or the tantrum Eva had over some wild flowers she wanted to pick. Let’s move straight on to the Model Traffic Area:


From the photos, it’s hard to tell that it’s anything but an actual road system. But it’s all for play – faithfully recreated roundabouts, one-way systems and cycle lanes….all for kids to roam free on. Brilliant.


Reuben doesn’t really have a pair of wheels at the moment, since his faithful Scooty broke. His bike is a little small for him but we decided to take it with us anyway, as he’d definitely want to join in any mini-road fun that was going on. And he managed a lot of bike riding, despite not having touched it in years. He’s getting a big boy bike for his birthday, by the way…in case anyone’s feeling sorry for him.


There were also three play areas, in and around the road system. This was the smallest:



Then there was a much bigger playground just next to it, with more climbing frames, a seesaw and swings:



And a model train! Just in case there wasn’t enough for your transport-mad child already:



There was also a good range of accessible play equipment – an ability whirl and a accessible swing, for starters. The ability whirl didn’t move very fast though…almost like it didn’t really have the ability to whirl.

Eva watched a bigger girl hanging on to this thing, and twirling through the air:



She gave it a go but I’m not sure her arm muscles are quite up to it. Let’s just say I’m glad I didn’t let go of her.

The third play area was a charming little natural one, just outside the back of the playground. It had a little tree-stump maze, where you had to step on the ducks and avoid the crows and geese:



It also had natural stepping stones, much like the ones we found at the back of Warwick Services. Only these had probably been risk assessed and stuff:


Much to my amusement, we also found a woman dressed just like Nathan. I tend to be able to spot Nathan from a distance, thanks to his unusual Australian hat, which he inherited from Bang. But they’re clearly not so unusual in Australia and it was an Australian woman that was wearing an almost identical one, together with a green t-shirt and black trousers. I managed not to grab the wrong person but I’ll be honest, it was a close call.


It was getting late by now, and the cafe was shutting at 5 so I wrangled the three of them in there in order to get some sugar and caffeine before we headed home. Eva sulked about having to stop scooting about and then sulked again about the lack of blue ice pops. But she was impressed by the cafe’s large range of “That’s Not My” books. There was even one in Spanish!



See the face on that? A child cruelly forced to eat the wrong colour ice pop. We’re going to send her to gratitude school I think. And also Mr Freeze school because she made a total hash of that one.

Meanwhile, I relaxed with a fruit tea and a brownie in the serene surroundings of the Lordship Hub and tried to ignore all of this^^



Nathan had a cappucino and he and Roo read a Lego annual that someone had helpfully filled in the answers to. There were toys and crayons and games on hand as well:



And it was generally a pleasant place to spend half an hour, even with a girl in a not-so-pleasant mood. They take card for transactions over a pound, which is an added bonus:


On our way out, there was just time for one more play area and this was the adventure playground. I assume it was designed for bigger kids, as they were hanging around all over it and it wasn’t the best-maintained bit of the park. There were a few panels missing and nails sticking out which made it unideal for adventurous kids. Roo liked the rope swing though:



And, once again, Eva didn’t want to leave it:



She loves those wobbly bridges, even though Mummy is a bit phobic about them. We did eventually peel her away, squealing about the injustice of it all, and we found the charmingly-named 123 bus to take us back to Walthamstow. Getting on the last bus home, the driver told Nathan he shouldn’t have a bike on board, which was a bit random given it was the fourth bus of the day and Roo’s bike really isn’t much bigger than Nathan is. If anyone could shed any light on the TfL regs re a small child’s bike, that would be super helpful.

For that reason, and a few others, I think we’d probably drive if we went there again. It’s a lovely place to practise cycling and it’ll be super-useful once he has his new bike…but if we can’t take a bike on the bus, driving seems sensible. Obviously “sensible” doesn’t come into the reasoning behind an LWAT anniversary post, so we took a meandering bus route instead.



Another reason to return is that we didn’t even check out the paddling pool – the kids clocked it as we went past but we didn’t have their swimming things and it wasn’t quite hot enough. Lordship Rec, you deserve more of our time than we gave you. And on that point I’ll….



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