LWAT is 500 – A Monopoly Special pt 2 (Oranges, Reds, Pinks, Yellows)


As any Monopoly player will tell you, fate is a fickle mistress. One minute you’re building houses on Oxford Street, next you’re having to mortgage them all to pay your brother-in-law his Mayfair rent. And will he let you go out gracefully? Nooooo…”You can stay in” he says, as he merrily strips you of both cash and assets, even though all you want to do by this point is go and have a large Baileys.

Such is the luck of the real-life Monopoly player too. Last night I wrote Part One of this post, confident that we’d complete it today, racking up the light blues, stations and browns after church. But as I saved draft, there was a  curious noise from upstairs and Roo gave us a good reason to postpone for 24 hours. Will we do it on Bank Holiday Monday? Who knows? Maybe if we roll a double.

But I can still tell you about the rest of yesterday’s epic day out, where we bagged the dark blues, greens, yellows, pinks, reds and oranges. At the end of Part One,we were lunching in Marlborough Street, having visited Piccadilly, Park Lane, Mayfair, Bond Street and Oxford Street. We’d visited Regent Street briefly but hadn’t yet made our shop stop..and this was a big one. Hamleys!


Now, I mentioned before that I was determined not to spend too much money on this trip and so far the children were subscribing to it. We had got in and out of the Disney Store with wallets intact as the kids were happy just to look at all the exciting things and have some photos with the life-size Elsas and Iron Men. I was confident that we could repeat this in Hamleys, especially as we were sticking to the ground floor and there was always a lot going on there.



And so it was today – a boomerang demonstration at the front, a tub of “magic snow”(no, nothing illegal) round the side and a magic show at the back. All free entertainment for my two little Monopoly-crawlers. Eva also wanted to shake hands with every teddy on the wall of teddies: And she reayyyyeyyy yiked the Too Many Ponies section:


If we’d gone upstairs we may never have left, so it’s probably good that we stayed on the ground floor. We were in and out in 20 minutes with no money spent. Goodness knows how, as the next stop was less than alluring.


 Vine Street. The dullest of all the dull oranges. I thought there must be something there to make it board-worthy but no. It’s just the back door of the Grand Meridien and nothing else. Tim Moore, of the excellent “Do Not Pass Go“, reckons it was the police station that warranted its inclusion – it matches with the Bow Street Runners and the Marlborough St Magistrates’ Court to make a legal-themed set. But the police station is no more and there is nothing in its place. I’d planned to have pudding in Vine Street – buying an ice cream en route for a bit of BYO Vine Street fun. We were all still mega-full from lunch though and the back-alley smell wasn’t particularly enticing. Plus Reuben needed the toilet, so we took a swift photo and headed to Waterstones Piccadilly to use the facilities.

Waterstones is a good place to remember if you get caught short in Central London and don’t want to have to pay. The toilets are located rather charmingly on the 5 1/2th floor and, if that makes you think of Harry Potter, you’re not alone. They have a replica of Harry’s understairs cupboard near the back door, complete with portrait of Dudley Dursley on the outside. We didn’t go to the children’s department but I imagine that’s a fun place to hang out too.


 It was fitting that we were back on a yellow street, as our next two destinations were yellows. Which means more tourist attractions! I had Ripley’s in mind for Coventry Street (I think you can hang out in the lobby for free) but my Piccadilly-Circus-avoidance brought us out by the horses statue so we’d gone right past it. Time for an emergency tourist attraction and Bubba Gump provided just that – obviously the kids haven’t seen “Forrest Gump” yet but I got a photo of them on Forrest’s bus stop bench, next to a box of “Life is like a box of chocolates”  chocolates. Eva is clearly trying to get into the chocolates here:


We got waylaid much longer than planned at our next stop, Leicester Square, and I finally had to spend some money on something non-edible. Our planned stop was the M&M Store, which we ducked into, to pose on their M&M bus:


My children had been dazzled by the bright lights of Hamleys and the Disney Store, so the M&M Store didn’t hold the thrill it once did. There was a Nickolodeon Store next door which I think they may have liked, but I’ve avoided PawPatrolMania so far and I don’t think that place would have helped. There’s a Lego Store coming soon too, so next time we visit I imagine Roo would want to pop in there. But what was the real thrill of Leicester Square?


OMGoodness. There is water play there now. And a man blowing giant bubbles. This was a slippery combination indeed and, as you can guess, we were not prepared for any of this. The fountains started off really small, so the kids just took their shoes off and paddled. Then the fountains got less small, and Eva collided with a toddler boy and went right into a puddle. Drastic action was needed. Luckily, we were in Leicester Square so there were outlets available:


London Baby, yeah. I was disappointed that I couldn’t find any Monopoly-themed t-shirts but these were on-theme enough for now. Once they were dry though, we needed to move hastily on and avoid the wet stuff. Easier said than done:


What’s that though? Another Dream Jar? Go fetch, kids!


This one made Reuben really hungry apparently. Most things make Reuben hungry.

We were now handily positioned to cut through to Trafalgar Square, our next stop. And on the way we found another Orange Street:


Does that count? It should count.

It was getting late, but I felt like we were on the gateway of the pink/red power bloc. A few swift moves could knock down five of them. I thought we’d have to go a bit out of the way for Pall Mall but I didn’t realise it came right up to the edge of Trafalgar Square.

Another one in the bag. Boom! I hadn’t come up with much for the pinks and the reds as there’s not a lot of child-friendly places on Northumberland Avenue. So here’s my slightly lame “challenge” – for the pinks, find the flags of as many different countries as possible. For the reds, spot a statue of an animal. Come on kids, it’s fun!

To be honest we were so near the end of the day by now that we were motivated purely by collecting streets. The flags challenge would have worked well on a more leisurely day, when we could stroll past all the embassies and take photos of every flag we could. As it was, we found one on each pink. Starting with the Canadian flag on Pall Mall:


The animal statue in Trafalgar Square is a pretty easy win but Reuben was soon distracted by not one but two floating Yodas. Who needs more than one floating Yoda in a small space? Roo asked both how they did the floating thing but neither answered. I assume it was The Force.

Anyway, here they are in Trafalgar Square. No road sign needed for ID, right?


And here’s the classic kids-with-lion shot. Nathan went up there with them and then stayed up to haul another, unrelated to us, little girl up there as well. At her father’s request, obviously. That sentence sounds strange without the context.


Crossing the road at the bottom of the square to get some pinks, we noticed something odd about the Green Men lights. One appeared to have a pair of green children instead but I realise now that it was two adults with a heart in the middle. I’ve googled it and it’s all part of this project – replacing the green men with trans and gay symbols for Pride. I’m not sure who gets the credit for it but it was kinda neat.


The opposite corner gave us two pinks and two flags – a British one on Whitehall and a Korean one on Northumberland Avenue. Again, this would have been less lame if we’d actually gone down the roads but we were tired. Here are the photos though -



And Northumberland Avenue:


Whitehall also served up a Pret that didn’t sell those frozen berry smoothie things, after I’d promised Roo he could have one. So McDonalds on the Strand it was then. Which obviously meant another red down, along with its animal statue (antelope outside the SA Embassy):


Our rest breaks seemed to all be very long. We only had two more stops scheduled for the day but even Nathan was whining and asking for bed at this point. He’d opted for a vanilla thickshake and I think it made him sluggish. Come on, family! Just Bow Street and Fleet Street and then we’re done for the day! And they’re close, right?

Not as close as you’d think. Bow Street is the opposite end of the Strand and then a substantial way up Wellington Street. It was 7PM and the pavements were thick with theatregoers, which impeded us somewhat. Still, we made it to Bow Street where, once again, we failed to do anything more than take a photo and look at the giant ballerina on the side of the Royal Opera House. Dang oranges. We did bag another bonus Dream Jar though:


Fleet Street was another trek again. The Strand really is longer than anyone thinks, as it carries on the other side of Aldwych and past the Royal Courts of Justice. Turns out there was a full mile’s walking/scooting from McDonalds to the end point – it was a bit more effort than any of us were ready for that time of day.


But lo! The entrance to Fleet Street and with it, an animal statue! 17 streets achieved, three quarters of the board done minus the stations and it was definitely time to get the bus to Liverpool Street and from there the train home. And we completely forgot to take a photo of Liverpool Street as a stop, so I guess we’re revisiting that tomorrow.


To summarise then, here’s the map of our first day:

Monopoly Day 1 Actual

Piccadilly, Park Lane, Mayfair, Bond Street, Oxford Street, Regent Street, Marlborough Street, Vine Street, Coventry Street, Leicester Square, Pall Mall, Trafalgar Square, Northumberland Avenue, Whitehall, Strand, Bow Street, Fleet Street. Dark Blues, Greens, Yellows, Oranges, Pinks and Reds. 4.53 miles walked/scooted. Can I sleep yet??

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

LWAT is 500 – A Monopoly Special pt 1 (Dark Blues, Greens, Some Other Bits…)


Hooray! It’s time to pull a very special party popper. If I can summon the energy…oh wait…no, that’s too much. I’m so tired. So, so tired. You’ll see why.

We decided to celebrate by visiting every road on the Monopoly board. It was an idea that occurred to me while walking down Whitechapel Road a few weeks back. And simultaneously, it occurred to me that some of the squares are quite far out and so it wouldn’t be feasible to do it in one day. I know pub crawlers manage it but a) they can move at adult walking pace b) they can go on late into the night and c) they can be easily persuaded to leave somewhere and move on to the next place. Actually, given this is drunken people in pubs we’re talking about, maybe scrap point c).

So my idea was to do it in a relaxed fashion, over a bank holiday weekend. Saturday for the Central London ones (dark blues, greens, yellows, oranges, reds, pinks), Sunday for the outliers (light blues, browns, stations) and then Monday for anything we failed to do on the other two days. Bear in mind we needed to fit church in on Sunday morning as well. To add an LWAT twist to proceedings, every set would have some kind of theme – places to visit, or a challenge to fulfil. As you can guess, some of these took enormous liberties and stretched the concept way beyond breaking point. And besides, we improvised a lot on the day. Let’s get on to what happened when we actually did this. It’ll be long but hopefully it’ll inspire you to do similar. Or never leave the house again. One of those. I’ll try to do a clean version of the route in a separate post for people who don’t fancy ploughing through several thousand words of Wot I Did and especially don’t want to hear about That Scene in Caffe Nero.


We started at Green Park tube. I had an order planned but it was in practicality order rather than any board order, although some of the sets did occur naturally together. Green Park was chosen because it was easy for us to get to as it’s on the Victoria Line and also because it opens straight onto a scoring street -Piccadilly, a Yellow. For those of you like Roo who are aggrieved that the set colours don’t match similar sounding tube lines (“But Piccadilly has to be dark blue!”) well…get over it. He soon did.


The theme for the yellow set was “tourist attractions”, as you’d expect for such a lively set. I wasn’t super keen to spend any money, except on food and drink, so was on the look out for tourist stuff we could do for free. And there was the perfect place on Piccadilly – the Hard Rock Cafe shop. Roo and Nathan both like a bit of hard rock and Eva and I enjoy a bit of twee indie rock so…something for everyone really. Plus there’s an added extra – you can get a free tour of their basement museum, called The Vault.


They have Black Sabbath’s drum kit, which Reuben was excited about, and David Bowie’s guitar, John Lennon’s jacket, Jimi Hendrix’s guitar… it’s well worth a visit. It’s not a huge area, so we locked up the scooters outside (free parking?) in case we accidentally damaged a priceless rock artefact. Or that guitar from Maroon 5.


So, one street down –  many to go. Our theme for the dark blues is already showing the cracks in my plan – there’s not a heap of child-friendliness in Mayfair or Park Lane (I felt like a visit to Hyde Park would throw us way off-course before we’d even started). That’s why I chose the BFG Dream Jars as our dark blue mission – I knew there was one at Admiralty Arch and another on Bond Street. This is not going to work if you try this trail next week as they’re only running till 31st August. Still , it worked for us today. Here’s the one on Park Lane:


And here are the kids by the Park Lane sign:

mono3You’ll notice in all these photos that they’re holding Monopoly £500 notes. Are you getting the subtle theme yet?

Now, I’d started out later than planned so we were approaching lunchtime and hadn’t covered much ground at all. The kids were whiney, I was hungry so what to do? Stop for cake of course! I didn’t have anything really in mind for Bond Street so thought maybe we’d have a coffee there. But then we walked past Caffe Nero, just off Half Moon Street and I caved in. Yes, we’d only marked off two stops (though we were in Mayfair so technically that was number three) but I needed sugar and caffeine and the children needed…just sugar.


Then there was a scene. Eva has many annoying habits but her latest is this – you go to a cafe, ask her what she wants. She ums and errs and eventually chooses something. You sit down, start enjoying your own sugary caffeine and then her face crumbles. What is wrong, you wonder. She fails to produce anything but a whiney noise for what seems like hours. Your coffee grows cold. Eventually out it comes – “I changed my mind.” She wanted what Reuben has or what I had or really just anything other than what I’d just queued up and paid for.

She tried this shizz today. You can imagine how it went. Luckily, she hadn’t so much as breathed on the blueberry muffin she’d chosen, so the lovely and patient staff were happy to change it for a chocolate one. I’m not nearly so lovely and patient. Importantly though, we were sugared up and ready to continue our mission. In fact, there may have been something stronger than caffeine in the coffee as both Nathan and I swear we saw a man walk by with a giant blue parrot on each shoulder. The kids saw nothing. Mayfair is one crazy place. And here’s the official photo from that stop:


We found the Dream Jar right opposite the spot where Old Bond Street meets New Bond Street. Perfect, as there is no telling which of the two “Bond Street” is meant to be. I say we found it – we more remembered where it was from the time we went to the Project MC2 launch two weeks ago. I was hoping Reuben wouldn’t notice this and would enjoy hunting for it..but alas, I was rumbled. It took a bit of “Ah yeah…I think you’re right Roo” to convince him that I didn’t also know where it was.


But Mayfair Dream Jar was secured and it didn’t matter too much that we had nothing for Bond Street. The green set’s theme is “shops” but the only remotely suitable-looking shop on  Google Maps was Ralph Lauren Kids. And it was the same IRL – Ralph Lauren had some giant pencils and books in its window but it did stand out in a sea of extremely delicate, valuable, sparkly things. Not to fear though – I have a child-friendly recommendation for you if you choose to do this trip not on a weekend. It’s from the Project MC2 launch again and it’s the exhibition space at the Royal Institution. It has giant lighting up squares to push! And a reasonably priced cafe! It’s closed on a Saturday but here’s a photo from when we were there:


 It kinda fits the “holding up banknotes” theme of the day. Have I over-used the word “theme” yet? Is it becoming a theme in itself? Next in the green set was Oxford Street and that was a long scoot away, all the way up New Bond Street. On the way though, we stopped for a chat with these two fellows:


It really looks like Winston and Eva are getting on well, doesn’t it?

I definitely had a shop stop in mind for Oxford Street. Where would Eva realllly yuv? Somewhere with an entire floor of Disney Princess tat? Why yes, we can find one of those. And yook, it comes with a Cinderella pumpkin carriage!


Roo was upstairs with Nathan and Iron Man:


And eventually we found an Oxford Street sign for them to pose with:


I find princesses en masse make me hungry, so it was lucky that I’d pencilled in the next stop as lunch. Well, the very next stop was Regent Street, where we found a bonus Dream Jar:


And had a photo of such tired children that I swear passers by thought this was some bizarre form of begging:


I wasn’t mentally ready for our Regent Street shop stop though, so we went for lunch just off (Great) Marlborough Street. As everyone knows, the oranges are pretty lame-ass in real life even though they’re dynamite in the game. So I’d marked them as rest stops of a sort though I hadn’t quite decided where we’d have lunch.


Hipster McDonalds turned out to be the answer. Also known as Five Guys. We were in there for a full hour and it was excellent hipster fast food. You queue up to order, go to fill your drink and then collect your order from another counter. It all moved pretty swiftly, was inexpensive and you can choose any toppings for your burger for free! They also have an astounding selection of soft drinks from the machine, including a strawberry Fanta Still that the kids conceded to drink (they don’t do fizzy drinks) and unlimited refills. The burgers and fries were delicious, they had crayons for the kids and they didn’t try to chuck us out when Eva took a full hour to eat half a cup of chips. I would definitely recommend it.


But I feel like I’ve talked enough for this post. Leave us covered in salt and grease and yumminess and rejoin us in Part 2 where we’ll visit some more disappointing oranges, find a toilet on a non-existent floor and do some spontaneous water play…

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

Another Summer Round Up


You might have discerned by now that I have a Significant Number blog post coming up. That’s why I’ve been posting like a mad lady this week. And yes, indeed post 500 is brewing…and we’re off out tomorrow to do something for it. You’ll see.

But in the mean time, here’s some other fun stuff we’ve done at random points over the summer.


There was a trip to the Southbank Centre, which is sporting some lovely new artwork and some quirky benches as part of the Festival of Love. I had a horrible cold coming on that day so was cheerful enough through a coffee and lunch with an old friend, but was feeling pretty rotten by the time I met up with the long-suffering C’sMum. Someone arguing with us over the number of chairs we needed and me flinging my cold meds over the balcony onto the heads of the dancers below…well, none of that helped my mood. But we had some fun that day! It was tipping it down all morning but it didn’t stop the kids enjoying the fountains in swimwear and wellies:


Now, there was a small logical flaw here – the wellies were to stop them slipping up on the wet fountain base but I forgot that they didn’t have spare shoes so they had to wear soggy wellies all the way home. Ho hum, live and learn. Now, who can spot the child in this photo?:


I swear there’s one in there somewhere.

So, what else? Well, there was a spontaneous brunch with Holly and family at Bill’s in Brewer Street. The prices are reasonable, the pots of tea massive and the waiters have luxuriant hipster beards. One child had a pancake the size of his head. Literally. And my pancakes looked pretty darn tasty too:


Then there was a trip to Memorial Park in Chingford, which had some new and shiny play equipment. In the journalistic accuracy you’ve come to expect from this blog, I remember very little about it. I  did get one photo of the kids on a seesaw thing though:


Woh now Reuben, that is scarily high. Oh look, here’s a photo where you can actually see some of the play equipment in the background.



It was followed by a lovely lunch at La Rocca where they had a good kids’ menu and brought out colouring sheets for us. Of course J&J&A had brought their own hipster colouring book, but clearly the La Rocca staff deemed this unworthy. Their version had way more bunnies in it.


Another trip out was to King Henry’s Walk Garden in Islington. It’s a community garden which opens up to the public on a Sunday and we went there for a very pleasant post-church picnic. There’s a beautiful flower garden, and a wild wood bit at the back with a beehive and a big hotel. It was an unexpected little oasis just off Balls Pond Rd and the children enjoyed helping to water the plants and follow the nature trails.


I believe Nathan has taken the younger LWATs out a few times without me too. They went to the reconfigured dinosaur exhibition at the NHM:


And I believe I mentioned it before, but Nathan and Eva had a bit of a Daddy-daughter date at Oh My! in Chingford:

sum9 sum10

Cuteness! So that’s you all caught up and post 499 done….watch this space for post 500!

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

Autumn Preview

2014-12-01 18.34.12

It doesn’t feel like it this balmy night but Autumn really isn’t far away, is it? Please tell me this summer holiday is almost over…


Yes, yes it is. And here are some things to look forward to this Autumn. First off, we’re taking a trip to Berkhamsted on Nathan’s birthday for our first BerkoFest experience. It describes itself as a “boutique, family friendly festival” and this year the headliners are  James Walsh of Starsailor, Republica and Miles and Erica from baggy superstars the Wonder Stuff. I’m probably most excited about that last act and am considering taking along the folder that my friend Claire covered with “Circlesquare” lyrics one English Language lesson at sixth form. It bulges with opportunity I tell you….bulges! BerkoFest is on 10th September, 11:30am-7pm and you can buy tickets here.


Closer to home, for us anyway, is the Highams Park Festival of Culture. Running from 2nd -16th September, it encompasses 50 different events, from pop-up restaurants to a HP-wide yarn bombing. My choir, HarmonyE4, is singing at Highams Park station on launch night (2nd Sept, between 6 and 7pm) so come to that bit even if you do nothing else. But the Gin and Sympathy colouring evening, the Flea and Tea Market and the Kipper storytelling also sound fun!


I’ve mentioned it before but Chickenshed is back after a summer break, with a new season of “Tales From the Shed”. Every Friday and Saturday morning, there’s an opportunity for kids to come and watch these interactive shows which feature songs, dancing, puppets and lots of silliness. There’s also a free family fun day on 2nd October and performance workshops every Saturday for 8 weeks. Phew! That’s a lot going on. 

Big Fish Little Fish

And there’s more…the Spiegeltent is coming back to Canary Wharf from 22nd Sept – 2nd Oct and there’s a varied programme, from the family-friendly to the more adult. Our friends Big Fish Little Fish are holding a party there on 25th Sept and the day before that there’s a brilliant-sounding Mad Hatter’s Tea Party with storytelling and cake! Bopping bunnies and Bach to Baby are also holding events. Some of the events are free and “just turn up” but for the ticketed ones, see more info here.


Lastly, the Family Travel Show is also back this autumn, at Olympia on 1st and 2nd October. Last year we went and had a lot of fun – there are plenty of kids’ activities, talks, dressing up and a free creche! It was definitely worth attending, even if it did give us holiday envy (one day we’ll make it abroad…this year was not that year). For more information, have a look here.

Is that enough to warm your cockles yet? My mind is already skipping over to Christmas but I won’t burden you with that just yet. Let it snoooooowwww…..



Posted in Facts! And facts are important! | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Isle of Wight HighWights

Yes, it’s another exotic holiday for the LWAT family…we’ve just returned from a week on the island and it’s my pleasure to show you some of the interesting things we did. As you can tell, we were incredibly lucky with the weather and it was only on the last day that we found ourselves huddling outside Waitrose in the rain, eating a cupcake to try and kill time before we got on the ferry. So, what’s worth doing?


Alum Bay and the Needles


This is as iconic as the IoW gets. If you recognise anything, it’ll be these stacks of rock on the westernmost point of the island. Parking at the top is £5 and there are restaurants and amusements next to the car park (carousel, go karts…those ubiquitous Water Walkerz). I totally wussed out of getting the chairlift down the cliff and we took the 105 steps instead.


But on the way back, faced with the prospect of dragging an over-tired Eva back up those steps, we braved it. It was completely terrifying. I clung onto her tightly in case she slipped through the gap and joined the mass of hats and flip-flops on the cliff face. I’m glad we did it but I still have flashbacks.


The bay at the bottom is gorgeous, by the way. Clear turquoise water and ice-cream colour cliffs, with those 21 different shades of sand. Of course, back at the top we had to do the filling-plastic-pot-with-sand thing. You can’t get more IoW than that.


Sandown Pier


Sandown is pretty much as archetypal British seaside as you’re likely to get on the island. There’s a sandy beach, deckchairs and a pier which forces you to walk through – or push a wheelchair through – a tacky amusement arcade before you’re allowed out to breathe that fresh sea air. It smelt a bit like an old people’s home. …the arcade, not the fresh sea air.



My brother and his family were with us that day, so he took Roo off to play crazy golf while Eva and her small cousin rinsed us for every coin we had so that they could go on the “teatup ride”. I might have bought sambuca flavoured rock in my panic to make yet more change for yet more noisy neon rides. Nathan doesn’t quite understand how that happened.




Ventnor was a bit of an unexpected hit with the kids. Even before we got down to the shingley beach, there was the excitement of a clifftop playground:

. With its own compass, so that I knew how to get back to everywhere I’ve ever lived. I love how London is an afterthought next to Shanklin.


And then there was a paddling pool with a giant map of the Isle of Wight on it! I take it back about the sand art. ..THIS is the most IoW thing you could ever do.


Roo’s butt fitted nicely between the Coweses:


And the cafe next to it does good coffee. ..it even has soya milk, though I noticed that too late. We planned to go back later for ice cream, but Roo was literally blue with cold after an extended dip in the sea so for once he didn’t fancy it. What to do to warm him up? Nathan knew! Walk the entire length of the solar system! So that’s what we did.


Walking a few minutes along the sea front, back past the cafe you’ll find a plaque which tells you all about Pluto. As you walk on, the planets are spaced out according to their actual distance from each other. It’s about a 2km walk but once you get past Saturn, they start getting closer together. And there’s lots of lovely sea scenery on the way as well:


Sadly there wasn’t a tea room and, after 2km of planet-finding, I was seriously craving a cuppa and a scone. So we decided to walk back along the top of the cliff, to see what was there.


Nothing. There was nothing there. There was an old church and a duck pond and a cafe that was just closing but there was not a cup of tea to be had anywhere in Bonchurch village. We sat on a bench and plumbed the depths of the snack bag for ageing haribo. The children were unimpressed with this bracing walk at the end of the day and they never got ice cream and I never got my scone. Good paddling pool though.


Tapnell Farm Park

In case of wet weather, it’s good to have a plan that doesn’t involve just lounging around on the beach all day and eating ice cream. As it happens. the day we went to Tapnell Farm it wasn’t rainy at all but hey, we deployed the plan anyway. There was some good outdoorsy stuff, including a giant jumping pillow that made Reuben “want to jump just looking at it”. Adults were also allowed on:
There was a small play area in between the jumping pillow and the wallaby walkabout area and a big green space for picnicking. But the best stuff is inside. Like this straw bale pyramid:
In the same barn, there was a zipwire and a go kart track. Then there was a play barn with a soft play frame, giant foam construction blocks, ride-on tractors and a chalkboard cow. Also coffee. Good coffee. Nathan had the Flat Wight. See what they did here?
Eva’s favourite bit was the role play area:
Roo’s was obviously the jumping pillow. The boy is made for an all-bounce environment. Obviously, there were plenty of chances to meet the animals as well so both kids got to feed this mad-looking calf:
It was only £29 for the four of us to get in, so it was half the price of some of the other attractions on the island. We stayed pretty much until we were kicked out and it was a lovely day…even if it didn’t rain.



There was also a good bouncing opportunity at Ryde on our first day -Roo went on the trampoline by the beach while Eva rode the carousel and did sad-eyes on me because I wouldn’t let her go on the Water Walkerz.


We also found open-air church next to the beach, so we sat and sang along while eating our ice creams. We ate a lot of ice cream last week, but the blackcurrant cheesecake stuff from Ryde might have been the best one. It was this place:


The beach itself was also very lovely – lots of golden sand and warm, shallow water. Eva and I walked all the way out to a buoy and still didn’t go far above my knees. I think it was Reuben’s favourite of the week, which meant that the beaches and ice cream both decreased in quality as the week went on. Ah well.

I also made the kids go to the end of the pier to see what was there but, like Bonchurch, there was nothing. Just a ferry terminal with a Costa that’s only accessible to people with ferry tickets. Luckily, I hadn’t made them walk it – we’d jumped on the train and after discovering we couldn’t get into Costa, we jumped on the train right back. But how exciting to realise it was a vintage tube train! It was the roundels on the window that gave it away:


Exciting for me. Clearly not for Roo here…

So, what to do when the weather actually breaks and it rains non-stop all day? Well, that happened on our very last day when we had an awkward 6-hour gap between leaving the apartment and getting our ferry back. The answer was – cinema and Pizza Hut in Newport, followed by a trip to the Garlic Farm. Once again, Roo was unimpressed. It had a funny smell, apparently. Oh and don’t bother getting to Cowes an hour early unless you really like traffic jams and eating soggy gingerbread outside Waitrose…


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

A Happy Strike Day – 05/07/16


I know, I know…..this was months ago. But it was a happy day, and I think I’d like to write about it if I may. It wasn’t a successful camera day, so I don’t have a huge amount of photos but that’s pretty standard LWAT rubbishness, isn’t it?

Let’s start at the start. There was a teachers’ strike.  I was pretty stropped out about it. Nathan and I carefully mapped out all our annual leave at the start of the year, to cover school holidays, half terms and INSET days. There was no wiggle room. No wiggle room for the two election days that had closed the school and forced me to splash out on paid childcare. And definitely no wiggle room for a teachers’ strike just two weeks after that last closure. But I gritted my teeth, rejigged some stuff, paid for yet more childcare and alakazam – I had a Tuesday off with both kids. From then on, I decided we’d just have a nice day. A “yes” kinda day. I would forget how very irritating it is to have work disrupted every week of the summer term and we would just have a day out…a trial run for our summer days out.

Unfortunately, it was not starting in a very summery way. It was 9AM, it was raining and we were in the unglamourous surrounds of Barkingside. What do you do in that situation but go to the pub? I’ve rarely been to the pub at 9AM before, even in my student days, but apparently it was not a crazy thing to do -the Wetherspoons was open and it was pretty full. I was not the only one to think this was an OK thing to do and, worryingly, I was one of the only ones sticking to coffee (and hot chocolate for the kids). It was a strange experience.


But the coffee was much needed and gave me the energy to walk to our destination – Owls play centre in Fairlop Waters. We were trying out the public transport route and so far, it was working fine. Hence being half an hour early to meet J&J&A just before Owls opened at 10. We’d successfully got the 275 for the first bit and I’d successfully ascertained that there was no caffeine to be had on Forest Road, hence the pub. All we needed to do now was pick our way along that long and apparently pavementless road.

There are two ways to do this – you could just stick to the Fairlop tube side of the road, and there’s actually pavement right the way along. We didn’t do that though. We took a path off to the right, which looks a little like this (thanks Google Maps!):


Luckily it had stopped raining by now. We found ourselves walking along the edge of the golf course, talking about shoes (that will become significant later) and it brought us out nicely at the turning to Owls. It was a very pleasant alternative to the main road and we didn’t even go out of the way. There were even some hay bales to play on:


We hit Owls at 9:53, 3 minutes after the designated rendez-vous time and we were the first ones in. We’d been worried about it being rammed on a strike day, but it wasn’t too bad. And naturally, we bagsied the best table.

Now, I was already loosely planning to go and get the kids new shoes. Roo had said his casual shoes were pinching and Eva’s bunny trainers had had a hard life and now were falling off her feet, thanks to her habit of treading the backs down. I’d already wussed out a few times though – shoe shopping with Eva can be an ordeal and proved time and time again. This time though, fate stepped in. Or rather Reuben almost stepped in some sick that someone else had left in his current shoes. Yes, a random child was sick in Reuben’s shoes and left it for us to find later. That one incident marred what was otherwise a very pleasant morning at Owls. Eva might have even eaten something at some point. I forget. It was months ago.

So, we really, really needed to buy shoes. In the spirit of spontaneity I decided we’d go to Westfield. It was actually a logical decision – Fairlop is on the Central Line and would get us to Stratford speedily and once we were there the East London world was our oyster. I’d toyed with ideas of Ilford or Barkingside Clarks but this seemed much sounder. And the transport link worked like a dream.

Of course, we got suckered in to the Disney Store on the way to Clarks. I’m not sure the kids had ever gone into one before but they were entranced. So much Marvel and Princess tat in one place! And they had a magic mirror and a Princess tower! I’m amazed I ever got them out of there and into Clarks, especially as I refused to buy them anything but shoes. No Eva, that does not mean sparkly Disney shoes.

Mission was eventually accomplished, though shopping at Clarks during the sale is a harrowing experience and even more so when you end up having to pay for two pairs of full-price. Ouch. By now, the sun was shining hard and we were next to the Olympic Park so I figured – why not? Let’s go play.

Fate once more intervened and this time it didn’t have carrots in it. Some friends of ours from church had seen a Facebook appeal of ours for Olympic Park buddies. They were there, in the fountains, and we were welcome to join them. Of course, we had no swimwear but this was Spontaneity Day and so they went in wearing just their pants. It must be liberating to be able to do that.


Then Eva set up a shoe shop, carefully balancing a single shoe on the top of each post. Lucky tourists now had the opportunity to buy Roo’s sick-splattered trainers but sadly, none did. That would have paid for ice cream.


Because there was ice cream. Of course there was. It was a sunny Yes Day. It was almost as painfully expensive as the Clarks trip but Eva managed to eat the whole thing without dropping it. I think. I forget. It was months ago.

Every silver lining has a cloud though, doesn’t it? And the kids’ lack of dry pants were that cloud. There were some complaints about chafing and so I decided that the solution was to buy myself some new shoes too. If I did that at Primark, we could get fresh pants for the kids at the same time. But have you tried queuing in Primark at the end of a crazybusy day with two crazytired children? This is one bit that I wish to forget but so far haven’t. Don’t do it.

But spontaneity, friends and ice cream? Yeah! Do it. It was pretty fun, after all…


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

Cycle Confident at Ray Park – 10/08/16



Is it possible for a boy to go to terrified-of-falling-off to peddling a bike in 45 minutes with minimal instruction? Why yes, I was cynical too but I signed Reuben up for a free Cycle Confident course and…we’ll get to the results later.

First though, a tour of Ray Park, which is where our course was being held.  It didn’t look like much on Google Maps, but given we were an hour early (Roo was not the only one channelling some anxiety that day) I thought we might as well have an explore. It’s right in the shadow of the M11 but it’s surprisingly big and wild, with a river running along one side. There’s a lot of green space:



But also an outdoor gym, playground, sand pit and cafe. We started on the outdoor gym:


Eva was really getting into practice for her future career as a WAG:


You can see her now on “Footballers’ Wives” can’t you? I persuaded them to stop hogging the grown-ups equipment and go to the actual playground.


Where there was a little complex of tunnels and bridges, known as “Mineshaft”:

cc8 cc6

The sky was surreally blue that day. I think it might have been the fumes from the M11 or maybe the sun always shines in Redbridge


The hour of playing went quite quickly and soon it was time for the kids and I to cross over to the basketball courts for the cycling lesson. We didn’t bring our own bike, because we came on the bus and some drivers get antsy about taking bikes on buses (see here) but the instructors had some to borrow so it was OK.

They started Roo off on a balance bike, sending him round the court and instructing hime to take his feet off for the ground for a few seconds at a time. He’s not ridden a balance bike before, but got the hang of it and was soon taking his feet off the ground for 20 seconds at a go.


I don’t know what voodoo the instructors performed to get him over his fears but essentially they just told him not to be scared because he could do it. I’ve told him similar in the past, but for some reason he believed them. Soon he was moved on to a bike with pedals:


And jus like that…he was peddling! They showed him how to push off and get started and a few more practice goes later, he was circling the court on his own two wheels. It was amazing progress in a short time, and the instruction was really non-intrusive – they gave him some simple instructions and left him to get on with it and it worked. He could fly!

If you live, study or work in a qualifying borough, you too could get a free course…they run them for adults as well as kids. Take a look here for more info. 

After all that hard work, it was time for a refreshing drink in the cafe. Which was home to some toads and a gecko:


And a mosaic, showing life in the park:


And a blue slush machine, which is all Roo was after:


The cafe was really nice – it had a hot food menu, as well as cakes, coffee and slush. It takes card (hooray!), has toilets and plenty of seating, including some comfy sofas. It also has a soft play area, but it’s for children under the age of 4 so sadly both of mine were too big. When did that happen??

So, despite the nerves it was a really lovely afternoon out – a play in the park, a cake and a milestone achieved. I would definitely recommend Cycle Confident and am so proud of Roo for tackling his fears. Next up, the swimming phobia…


Posted in Token attempts at fresh air (parks) | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Project MC2 Season 2 Launch – 12/08/16


You may remember that last year, we went along to the launch of a new series, designed to get young girls interested in science. Four sassy friends – McKayla, Adrienne, Bryden and Camryn – use science, math(s) and tech to solve mysteries and complete spy missions. And now there’s a second series!


It was not an easy screening to get into though. We had to track down McKayla in an expensive-looking Mayfair street and she gave us the password to get in. So far, so good. But there was more – an hour-long spy mission that took us all over the Royal Institution in search of rogue agents.


I believe these guys were from the party people Sharky and George but as far as Roo and Eva were concerned, they were real spies, who had all the gadgets a spy would need – a briefcase full of mysterious objects, a tracker, a UV torch, walkies-talkies…the lot. The kids had to crack clues -some to do with the exhibitions, some not – and track down the spy, who they eventually cornered and tickled into redemption.

We kinda whipped round the actual exhibitions and I’d like to go back some time. I had a plan but it’s not going to work because the museum (and cafe!) are Mon-Fri only. I’ll talk more about that in a few weeks. But here’s the rather lovely staircase chandelier, which reminded me of the one at the Wellcome Trust:


And a fun elements game, where you had to hit the panels as they lit up, in time to Tom Lehrer’s “Element Song”:


But there was no time to linger. Once the spy was caught, we had science experiments to be getting on with, including some dry ice fun:


And growing our own crystals in tube, using liquid glass, copper powder and something that might be magnesium. You don’t come here for scientific accuracy, right?? All I know is that it started off with some clear stuff, then added some white stuff then some blue stuff. Sciencey!


There was much fun to be had, and we were so busy playing with this digital mirror-photobooth that we almost missed the screening itself.


But phew, we screeched in just as they were closing the doors and heard one of the Mad Science women talking about the need for more girls to be taking STEM subjects at school and she got interested in science herself. There was more dry ice and then…the first episode of season two!

Now, I haven’t seen the whole of season one, as my kids are still a bit young to be target audience but I picked up the gist – the girls have completed a successful mission as spies, but have busted their secret identities wide open as a result. Temporarily deactivated, they feel the urge to investigate when a former master criminal moves into town…will they go undercover and off the record to find out what she’s up to and save the day? Of course they will, but first another villain has unleashed their dastardly plot and suddenly the millenials find themselves without their beloved tech…

The episode ended on a cliffhanger and I might just have to get onto Netflix and watch the rest of the season, with or without the kids. I think they did both enjoy it though – Reuben liked the way they solved problems using science, and Eva liked the clothes. Yeah, we have a long way to go before we reach equalityville in this family.

She was very pleased with her new doll though – an Adrienne to go with the Camryn she got last year. I keep telling her that Adrienne is not just pretty and fashionable…she’s also a culinary scientist! I’m not sure how well the message is going but she did get an opportunity to at least use her numeracy skills on the way out. “This floor has diamonds made of diamonds!” she squeaked excitedly in the toilet while we waited for Roo, and then she went on to successfully count the 36 “diamonds” that made up the big one. Maybe there’s hope for her yet…


Project MC2 is available on Netflix now. More information here.

Posted in Reviewing the Situation | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Slap Haddock and Ridgeway Park -06/08/16


Yesterday was a busy day. Forgive me if I don’t talk you through all of it, especially not the bits in a Brick Lane basement, but there are two bits I’m going to share with you – a performance by Slap Haddock and a trip to Ridgeway Park.

I was excited that Slap Haddock were coming to Chingford – it felt almost like home turf. So I rounded up a small posse and we headed to The Mount. Everyone was enthusiastic but as 11:30 ticked closer and there was no sign of any street theatre anywhere, I felt like my entourage were starting to doubt me. Panicked, I checked and double checked the location and time and I was starting to panic when we suddenly spotted this giant across the road:


Phew! There was, as ever, no need to question me. Remember that next time, entourage.

The giant in question was Alfred Hitchcock, local Leytonstone boy with an inexplicable Italian accent and a convincing rotund belly. The ushers were here to celebrate Mr Hitchcock’s films but, as so often happens, they had a technical problem with the projector (I think it was missing entirely) and so the ushers and crowd were going to have to act the films out.

Like an audience member seeing Marion stabbed for the first time, I did not see that coming.

First up was “The Birds”. Reuben always loves a bit of audience participation, so it was good that he could get involved early on – here he is, joining the line up of birds waiting to peck Usher Betty:


I’ve never seen that film but I think it would terrify me. I don’t like birds.

Alfred was pleased with our corporate reenactment of his classic, so we moved on to “Psycho”. You can guess which scene they went for – the only question was who would play the victim. So Ushers Betty and Billy both gave us their best death scenes and whoever got the loudest cheer won the part. Only there was some confusion and I think Billy forgot that he had won the competition, as he and Betty both started out trying to be the murderer. Soon though, he was lathering up as the crowd produced a Mexican wave of violin noises to accompany the scene. Eva was the clapperboard girl:


Then it was time for a couple of improvised trailers – I have no idea what “Spellbound” is but gosh darn, that trailer makes me want to see it. I have to nitpick the “Frozen” trailer though – when Elsa is dancing around in the snow, she is not a princess. She is a queen. There are audience members out there who really care about this kind of thing:


If you’re going to start fact-checking improvised theatre though, you’re setting yourself up for a world of despair. So let’s move on and just say that the Hitchcock tribte was everything you want in a bit of street theatre-  interactive, hilarious, family-friendly and relentless when it comes to getting people involved. Even an old lady pushing her trolley straight through the set became part of the action. At the end, there was some bowler-hat-juggling and a group polaroid, which we got to take home.

In case you’re wondering, Reuben’s favourite bit was the death scenes. The gorier the better.

As you can tell, it was a gloriously sunny day, so I decided to take my boy to a park he’s never been to before. We were attempting a bit of “divide and conquer” – the kids have spent a lot of intensive time together this summer and they’re getting a little sick of each other’s company. So Nathan took Eva to “Oh My” for a play and a brownie, and Roo and I schlepped up the giantest hill in Chingford. Look, we made it to the top:


It’s not entirely obvious where the entrance to Ridgeway Park is, from this leafy residential road, but you need to take a veer off to the right just after the pub. It looks like this:



It looks like bits of the park have recently been redone – I believe the tennis courts are new, and there was a play area that looked all shiny too, Roo ran off to play while I lay down in the shade. It had been a long walk up that hill.



I knew there was an under 12s play area and an under 7s, so I assumed this was the bigger one. There were some challenging climbing frames, a zip wire and a swing. Roo did some climbing but soon complained that his head felt dizzy:


So he came to lie in the shade with me, and we played “Superhero Who am I?” while cloud-gazing:


Roo is never still for long though, and soon he was up again and climbing trees in the little copse behind us:


Sadly the miniature railway was closed when we were there – I think it’s open on Sundays and August-Wednesdays – but there was a mini funfair I’d forgotten would be there, and an exercise area too. Roo insisted on trying out every piece of equipment before wanting something to cool him down:


There was an ice cream van right next to the outdoor gym, but it was a close call between that and the slush offered at the fairground. Slush is flavour of the moment, so that won:

sh3 sh4

After that, he naturally wanted to explore the fairground, which I was a but wary about because these places inevitably burn through my money and bring nothing but disappointment and a stretchy chicken. But he was in a good mood after all this mother-son bonding and forgave me my refusal to pay £2.50 for hook-a-duck (guaranteed prize!). I let him have a go on the cork guns, where he demonstrated the family lamentable–lack-of-aim and the trampoline/soft play house where he demonstrated his usual Reuben…energy.


Wandering back through the park. we found the actual under-12s play area, and the under-7s one, so I’m not sure what the extra play area was. A bonus?  These two areas were slightly neglected-looking but that has never stopped my boy having a good time, and he had a go on everything in sight, including a roundabout pushed by a Daddy at terrifying Daddy-speeds. He probably needed another lie down after that…


A lovely afternoon out with my biggest one then – it’s not the easiest park to get to from HP but it was worth making the effort for a full three play areas plus extras. I’d like to go back and try out the railway one day. More information here.


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

Some Summer Theatre Picks for You…

Chester Tuffnut - Design by Robyn Wilson-Owen

Chester Tuffnut – Design by Robyn Wilson-Owen


How’s your summer been so far? Long? Me too. So I’m back with a few more ideas of Stuff To Do To Entertain Those Dang Kids.

First off, if you’re looking for entertainment in East London TODAY! then don’t forget Slap Haddock are rolling out their street theatre mayhem at Chingford Mount (11:30) and South Leytonstone (junction of Harrow Green and Leytonstone High Road) at 2pm and 3pm. It should be fun.

I am also very, very pleased to give a plug to the wonderful-sounding Chester Tuffnut shows at Polka Theatre in Wimbledon (see image above). With design by one of my very talented imaginary friends, it’s  a magical woodland adventure suitable for ages 2-5. It’s 50 mins long, with time afterwards to explore Chester’s world – I believe some Saturday shows also have workshops after them. I’m late to the game on this one, as it’s been running since June and is closing next Saturday but all the more reason to book quickly!

Of course August is also the month of Kids Go Free week, which is a great opportunity to see some West End shows for reduced prices. There’s everything from “The Tiger Who Came to Tea” for the littlies to huge shows like “Wicked” and “Kinky Boots” for your older kids and teens. Well worth having a look.

If you fancy something smaller scale, I’ve heard good things about the Little Angel Theatre in Islington. This weekend, they have a puppet show called “Isabel’s Well” on, which sounds pretty charming. It’s suitable for 3-7-year-olds but babies are admitted for all-age performances. Unicorn Theatre is another child-friendly venue and this month they have a show on for the very smallest theatregoers, called “It’s Baby’s First Adventure“, suitable for 6-18 month-olds, and tickets are very limited so book quickly!

And for fans of Peppa, she is returning to the Hackney Empire for just two days on the 20th and 21st August for “Peppa Pig’s Surprise“. I know how obsessive these Peppa fans can be, so make sure you don’t miss out on her brief flight back. For older kids (5+), I think “Air Play” at the Southbank Centre looks good – it’s a mime show, with giant umbrellas flying over the audience and all manner of air-based trickery. It runs till 14th Aug.

Chickenshed sadly don’t have any shows on over the summer but are returning with “Tales from the Shed” in the autumn. Their shows are affordable, accessible and lots of fun so I would definitely recommend going. Plus, it’s something to look forward to in September so you’re not moping over those kids going back to school…



Posted in Facts! And facts are important! | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment