Feltham – 06/08/15


It’s been an intense couple of trips of out-and-aboutness, so forgive me if this post is mainly made up of random letters, as my head hits the keyboard, in a kind of  isndf\NRHB\FHBR\HZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ way.

Yesterday was a particularly epic effort. Zone 4 in North East London to Zone 6 in the South West was always going to be a tough call, especially with a nursery pick up to get back for. So, what could make this even more complicated? A tube strike, you say? Why, thank you. I’ll take that challenge.

Cause I love a challenge, as you know. This was part of my bigger London Borough challenge, but also a good opportunity to catch up with a friend. And that’s how I justified taking my boy on a rush-hour, strike-day London Overground train. Check out all the personal space he didn’t have:


That’s my foot but not my leg. Mmm, cosy.

It was in this kinda snuggliness that we made our way to Liverpool Street. In a moment of spontaneous madness, I started wondering about hopping off at Hackney Downs and getting the Overground from Hackney Central round to Richmond. But, as I was frantically googling this as we were pulling into Hackney Downs, it seemed like an ill-conceived plan. We’d stay where we were.

My biggest concern was getting from Liverpool St to Waterloo. It was a 2 mile walk – a bit far for 6-year-old legs, or even 34-year-old legs. My plan was to walk to London Bridge and get the Thames Clipper to the the London Eye but first, we’d check out exactly how bad these bus queues were.

I was expecting the worst. When you see pictures of the tube strike in the Metro, it invariably shows hordes of city folk trying to cram onto a bus at Liverpool St. And sure enough, outside KFC on Bishopsgate, there was a huge crowd and the 26 parked up, letting a trickle of people on. We joined the back of the mob, not feeling optimistic…but then I noticed that the people getting on weren’t the same people as the ones queuing. People just wandered up and got on. I asked a few people in front of me if they wanted the 26 and they all said no, so Roo and I wandered on too. I still have no idea what any of them were actually waiting for. The 78? Is Peckham a hot commuters’ destination nowadays?

Anyway, we were on the bus we needed, and Roo had a seat of sorts…in the luggage rack. Still, I told him not to complain and after about 20minutes, we both had actual seats to call our own. It was a slow bus, but I’d allowed an hour for the transfer so it was fine. We got to Waterloo with time to spare before our train. Feeling smug, I bought a coffee and a smoothie for Roo. One of the energising ones with the black label. Remember that –  it might come in useful later.



While we waited for a platform, we watched a giant screen that was showing, among other things, the Fantastic Four trailer. Roo squeals every time he sees a bus with the poster on, so this was a treat for him:


Easily pleased, my boy. We settled down on the train for the 30-minute journey to Feltham and again felt smug at how we’d defied the strike to cross pretty much the entirety of London. Well, I was feeling smug. Reuben was thinking about superheroes.


We made such good time that we hit Feltham at 10:30, before our friends were ready to meet us. So we took a wander around the shopping centre, browsing the toys in The Works and avoiding the credit management people who seemed friendly but overly interested in my financial history.



Then we crossed the road to have a look at the duck pond. But on the way, we found this unexpected treat:


November 1991! I remember it so well…the first time I ever cried about a celebrity dying. And possibly the last. Oh Freddie. Too much love will kill you, just as sure as none at all.

Roo, as ever, was uninterested in rock history. Oh look, a duck.



And another duck! This one tried to steal Roo’s Haribo cake. Though its baby did not, as the boy alleges, try to drink from his flask.



It’s a bit of a random piece of green, right next to the shopping centre and a busy road, but it’s a nice place to hang out, with some cool mosaic benches:




And it gave us time to eat our cakes. Roo was feeling fine at this point. Remember that.



We met our friends and started making plans for the day. The original idea was to visit the Bedfont Lakes Country Park, right on the western edge of the Borough of Hounslow, but the sky was looking threateningly grey. As it began to make good on those threats, we rapidly recalculated. There was a soft play a few minutes away and that would give Roo a chance for a run about. Baby H was due a sleep and we could have a gossip. It all worked pretty smoothly.


The soft play is called Little Pins, and it’s in the same building as the bowling alley at Leisure West. It’s not hugely signposted, so it might not be obvious that it’s there. But now you know, should you ever have a child to entertain on a rainy day in Feltham. It was £4 for an hour and, for the most part, I could just keep a vague eye on Roo while having a catch up. Lovely.

By now, we were getting hungry and there was a Pizza Hut just over the car park. So, it seemed like an obvious choice – who doesn’t love the bargainous buffet and refillable drink, especially when they have one of those fancy new Pepsi machines that does loads of different flavours (You want 7UP Light Cherry? You got it!). Roo had a huge milkshake that he downed in seconds:



We ate some pizza and then, out of nowhere, Roo said he needed to be sick.

Huh. That’s not good.

He wasn’t sick – he just said he felt funny, went to the loo a few times, did some colouring and then perked up enough to eat dessert.

Then he said he felt sick again. And again he wasn’t.

This was all very odd, until I remembered the smoothie he’d had on the train. I fished it out of his rucksack, took a look at the ingredients and found a few things in there – guarana, flax seeds – that might possibly be playing havoc with his insides. I feel kinda responsible – I’d briefly wondered if it was suitable for him, but there wasn’t much else to choose from, given he doesn’t like orange juice. So we’d grabbed that with the coffee and hoped for the best. Don’t do what I did. Avoid the black label smoothies for kids. They’re not as innocent as they seem.


With all these gastric shenanigans going on, you’d think I would have whipped him straight back home for some rest and TLC. But home was a long way away, and the stale air and rocking motion of a train didn’t seem awesome for a nauseous boy. So, we went to the park. Feltham Park, to be exact. And once there, he was fine again. I think the episode had passed. Besides, the sun was out.


Feltham Park is a pretty big green area with a new and extensive playground. There is stuff for bigger kids, and a toddler area segregated by bushes:


There were some touches I really liked, like this weather station, in colourful 60s colours:



I also loved that it had a weather for what today was like:


Partly sunny. How very British and understated and also, how very true.

There were other interactive boards, where you could sort things by number or learn about sea creatures, and obviosuly there were climbing frames, swings for all sizes and slides. Plus a zipwire that Roo fell off and bruised his bottom.

Oh, and here’s a trophy to add to my Bins of the Boroughs collection:



We had a fun play, but it was time to get back if we wanted to avoid the rush hour. The train back to Waterloo was swift and there were none of the…internal problems I had anticipated. The only havoc played was the one in the Marvel top trumps set (rubbish card, by the way…but I cared not as I had Wolverine).

The reverse journey to Liverpool Street on the 26 was every bit as slow and the journey there. By the time we’d be staring at St Paul’s for halfa superhero alphabet, I decided we should get off and walk. It was a good plan, and we we found a pretty double helix en route:


We also found the Sugar Building, which excited us for – I suspect – different reasons. I have a weak spot for “The Apprentice”, Reuben  likes structures made out of stuff you can eat. Everyone’s a winner.


I get lost and disorientated in the Square Mile, so I had looked at Google Maps before we started walking and plotted a course to Liverpool St. Straight up, past St Paul’s tube, turn right onto London Wall at the Museum of London, all simple from there. It would work fine as long as I didn’t get distracted. Ooh, flowers:



Yes, we meandered off down an interesting looking alleyway – I thought it would lead to Postman’s Park but it clearly didn’t. But we did see some very old bits of wall, and managed to get back onto the newer Wall with relative ease….and then Liverpool St was a mere toddle away.

Basically, don’t let the Striking Man bring you down. Anything is possible, and even days out in the far reaches of Hounslow can be done with a little teeth-gritting. It was a fun day, and I have no regrets bar the smoothie. Let’s see how I fare against the might of the Victoria Line closure next…


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The LWAT Summer Project 2015


Yes, it’s the summer holidays and, a couple of weeks in, I’m finally ready to announce the LWAT Summer Project. We are going to visit all 32 London boroughs. Obviously not all this month. That would be madness, especially given that we are cut off from the rest of the world by the Victoria Line closure. But happily, we’ve already conquered the majority of the list. Just look where we’ve been so far:

Which means we have these still to go:

  • Bexley
  • Havering
  • Hillingdon
  • Hounslow
  • Kingston upon Thames
  • Sutton

Progress is being made – we’ve been to Ealing already, and are hoping for Hounslow tomorrow, tube strike permitting, but it could be a challenge. Do you live in Bexley or Hillingdon and want to invite us over for tea? We’ll see you there…


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A Public Service Announcement


I know -I’m bursting out of my BlogMould and actually telling you useful and relevant information. Bear with me.

Everyone and their wife knows that the top end of the Victoria Line is closed for 3 weeks this August, starting on 8th August (this Saturday!) and carrying on till 30th August (Seven Sisters to Walthamstow Central is closed, but fewer services on the rest of the line). Even Reuben knows that and he’s making alternate travel plans. But what he doesn’t realise, along with many other commuters, is the knock-on effect it’ll have on other services, particularly London Overground. Click here for the TfL page, but I’m going to summarise some highlights that may have passed you by.

* Live in St James St and commute into Liverpool St? Well, start replanning now. St James St will be exit-only until 9:30 and, obviously, Blackhorse Rd will have no Victoria Line. Walthamstow Central overground will be crazily busy, so your best bet is probably to get the bus to Leyton and hop on the Central Line. Which may also be busier than usual…be warned.

* Live in Chingford, Wood Street or Highams Park and run for that early morning train? Well, run faster. The trains will be departing 2 minutes earlier, so that post school run 9:01 will be an 8:59. Thank goodness there’s no school run to contend with…

* Live in Clapton? Get walking. Services won’t stop there before 9:30am. Luckily, you are right at the end of the 38 bus route- one of London’s most frequent routes – so you should at least be able to get onto one of those.

* Live in a bunch of other places I’ve never been to? Edmonton Green, Enfield Town, White Hart Lane, Silver Street, Bush Hill Park – you’re looking at a one minute early departure. Edmonton Green will also not be served by Abellio Greater Anglia services. I’m hoping that if this is your station, it makes more sense to you than it does to me…

There is some good news – there are two rail replacements buses being laid on, and an extra temporary service – the 558, which goes from Chingford Mount to Seven Sisters via Blackhorse Rd. Rail replacement bus A follows the Victoria Line route – Walthamstow Central, Blackhorse Rd, Tottenham Hale, Seven Sisters – and Rail Replacement bus B goes from Walthamstow Central to Stratford, skimming near St James St station on the way.

But – and this is a big but and I do not lie – there’s loads of other stuff on that info page which is just kinda slipped in there with all the closure information. Like the fact that the car park at Walthamstow Central will be closed throughout the works, so that’s one less way to get to the Overground.  Similarly, the car park at Blackhorse Rd will be half closed, to accommodate the rail replacement buses. Oh, and there’s the fact that the escalators at Walthamstow Central will be undergoing maintenance from now until April 2016!! They will be permanently set on “upwards only” from September to April, except during the morning peak (07:00-09:30), effectively turning the station from a buggy-friendly one into a nightmare. Either travel during rush hour or carry your buggy down a huge flight of stairs. And wheelchair users? Don’t go there. I mean it literally. And for anyone who shuddered at that last part, take note of this tiny nugget re Rail Replacement Bus A: “A small proportion of buses may not offer step free access.” Make of that what you will.

None of this has been widely advertised, but it has been discreetly popped in to a page full of other information. Talk about a good day to bury bad news! The bottom line is to work from home or do what everyone expects you to do in August and bugger off on holiday. For 3 weeks. We’re doing a bit of that during the closure and I have my (heaven-sent) local job, meaning that none of this is actually my problem – if all else fails, I’ll be dusting off my trainers. But I fear for Nathan and all my friends who actually need to work over August. I only hope that this post has arrived in time for you all to figure out how to handle three weeks of crazy.

Bon Voyage!

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The Brutalist Playground – 31/07/15


Ever wondered what the toilets look like in the Royal Institute of British Architects look like? Beautifully landscaped, you’d bet? Well you’d be right and now you can wonder no longer because that’s the exact spot we’re starting this blog post in. And look at this amazing sink:


And this stripy wall that the small girls enjoyed posing in front of:


And a massive mirror:


Really, this was job done for the day. We didn’t need to go the exhibition we were there for, we could just hang out in the loos for a few hours. We’d hastened in there when Eva made a panicked announcement at a cash point in New Cavendish Street, but now that she had sorted herself out we could possibly go elsewhere.

It took a little persuasion but yes, we did get back up the stairs of RIBA and into the Brutalist Playground exhibition. For those who don’t know, this is art. It looks like a soft play but it’s art, honest. Luckily it’s art that you can climb over.


It represents the innovative and not-exactly-safe concrete playgrounds of the 1970s brutalist estates but here they are recreated in slightly more child-friendly foam. It raises all sorts of questions about the “Nanny State” we live in now as opposed to the carefree era that served as a backdrop to those classic PSAs – “Apache” and “Spirit of Dark Water” spring to mind. Of course, even in this safe and soft environment, there was a bit of nannying.  The biggest piece in the exhibition was for over 5s only, which suited Roo just fine but wasn’t a popular move with the hordes of toddlers  and pre-schoolers who were romping about. Here’s the zone of schoolboys only:


We had assembled quite the review panel for this trip out – Eva’s friend J (nearly 3),her little brother R (7 months) and 17-month-old P. So , happily, I can feed back on what all ages made of it. And yes, all ages except Roo felt the pain of not being allowed on the big circle thing.

But there was plenty of other stuff to do. I’m a fan of play spaces that leave some space for imagination, and the minimalist blocks were ideal for climbing over, building on and remodelling, using these hexagonal blocks:


Roo, as ever, was the ringleader. Here he is, carrying blocks to build his hexagon sofa in the sky:


It proved very popular with a group of 3-year-old boys who were there. Eva couldn’t quite get up to the top level without a bunk up but I’m sure she could have scrambled up the slope if she’d really tried.

On  the other side, there was a flight of steps leading to both a slide and a secret “clubhouse” at the top of a tower. Roo got some of the blocks up there and managed to build a look-out platform:


I was slightly worried that he might be able to build high enough to tip himself over the edge but hey, he’d land on foam, right?


As you might guess, the whole thing isn’t made of nothing but foam – the foam is laid over plywood to make the structures. It’s been on for a while, and is showing some patches of wear (which is how I could see the wood below). The bare foam isn’t the most durable of materials, but when has art ever been about practicality?

On the upside, it made a tasty snack for baby R (that happened on my watch…I think I’ve forgotten how to handle babies). If you have a weaner-age, be aware that the foam comes out in clumps and looks fun to eat.


It was interesting to see how the different ages interacted with the exhibit. R just sat and looked at all the pretty pastel colours around him. P crawled around and managed to scale the slopes. She even breached the 5-year-old zone at one point (that was kinda on my watch too…I think I’ve forgotten how to handle toddlers). She was just about big enough for the slide and could do the steps on her own…it was a great space for her.


Eva and J enjoyed it too, running about with total abandon and occasionally trapping boys in small places. There was nothing that would get them too stuck so they didn’t have to be watched too closely…it’s also a fairly small space with one exit, so difficult to lose them entirely.


Roo, meanwhile, liked the building aspect of it, hauling blocks up slopes to create his own empire…and he liked the bit that Eva wasn’t allowed on. Obviously.


So, it worked well across the ages. So well that Eva didn’t want to leave and had to be dragged out literally kicking and screaming. She calmed down by the time we got outside and actually got to see the outside of the building:


She asked some questions about the pavements and then we were all good. We had a lunch date in Euston, so we wandered that way, passing the all-new Regents Plaza on the way. It has a grass-covered Innocent van, deckchairs and a bumpy grass bit that the kids may not may not have been allowed to walk on. So we didn’t, just to be safe, and carried on to our lunch venue.

Now, I entirely lamely failed to take a picture of this café, so let’s appropriate one from the BBC.


Nabbed from sherlockology.com

Nabbed from sherlockology.com

Yes, it’s the Sherlock café! Am I totally lame to be excited by that?

We were meeting my cousin and her family there and I was expecting it to be busy and crowded. But we met at 11:30 and it was fine – we got two tables close together and had a kids’ table and adults’ table next to each other (Eva sat with the adults…because she is one, according to her). By the time we left at 12:30 it was heaving so if you fancy it, go early. That probably goes for any eatery in the Euston area – they all get a bit manic and most are unfriendly and overpriced. Speedy’s was neither of the above – the service was attentive and swift, the bill reasonable and they were happy to go off-menu to bring Eva a sausage sandwich. I had the chicken and chorizo risotto and it was yummy. Reuben had a huge plate of roast beef, gravy and chips…a bizarre mix, but it wasn’t his own creation –it was actually on the menu. He didn’t finish it, but it was both big and piled. Roo loved lunching with his cousins, Eva liked looking at herself in the mirror and occasionally kissing it.

The only downside of Speedy’s is the lack of toilets but luckily I have a good Euston toilet-hack  – the Wellcome Collection. So we dived in there before the cousins had to get their train and we had to go to Liverpool St for a bit of chasing wild geese.

Weirdly enough, this was a day with very few meltdowns (the end of exhibit one excluded) and I’d mark it down as a success. All the kids seemed to love the Brutalist Playground and I would definitely recommend going before it closes on 16th August. As ever, find out more information here.

I believe they’re holding a Day of Play there on 8th August, so that would be an excellent time to pop along. And it’s free! Woohoo!


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Brent Lodge Park – 27/07/15


This Summer, I am doing something brave. I am conquering my fear of West London. But I can’t do it alone. Thankfully, when I announced this on FaceBook, a kind family of West Londoners reached out to invite us over to play. It was still a daunting prospect, especially getting there and back in the 6.5 hours that Eva spends at the childminders…but the promise of playmates and a strong cup of coffee at the end of the journey got us there in just an hour from Walthamstow.


I think it’s clear from this photo that Roo shares my mistrust of that end of the Piccadilly Line. Still, there were wonders to be seen as soon as we left the tube. Look at this garage that specifically caters for cars from the last century:


And this takeaway that caters for punters from centuries way before the last one. Maybe the Ancient Greeks. Did they love the tandoor?


West London is a marvellous place indeed. I think I’d always had the idea that it was kinda grim and industrial and generally just one big overspill of Heathrow. Certainly, this view from the tube didn’t reassure me too much:


But that was before we got to the magical land of Hanwell – and I assure you I’m not the first one to liken it to Narnia. It’s a pretty place, full of lovely period houses, green spaces and the occasional massive Lidl. Our native guides told us that there were some nice cafes about, including one at the back of a bike shop (sadly closed on Mondays) and I liked the look of the Clocktower Cafe, though the clocktower itself was a bit brutalist for my taste, although I think it’s actually Art Deco.

(Apparently it’s too brutalist for other people’s tastes as well. Read about one man’s campaign of hate here)



Our actual destination was Brent Lodge Park, which sounded like it would be almost too much fun to fit into the time we had. And sorry to yes that yes, it was too much fun for the time we had. But we managed to fit a fair amount in. Bear with me here.

First stop was Katy, Kit and Alice’s house where we had a coffee and a chat about superheroes before heading out to the park. Hanwell certainly has a village-y feel to it…just look at this church!



Oh, and take note of how the sun suddenly burst through the clouds as we parked up. I think West London arranged this specially for us.


Brent Lodge Park is part of Brent River Park, which I know because I read it from the picture above. It’s also known as Bunny Park, which I know because a 4-year-old girl told me. I assumed it was just the kind of thing small girls like to come up with (see “Tunnel Park”) but when I got home and looked on Google Maps, it appeared that this was the actual name of it. Sorry to doubt you Alice.

We did see a bunny when we were there, along with many other animals in the mini-zoo:


A few of the animals were being a bit camera shy  - we didn’t spot the marmosets or a peacock, which is probably just as well given that Roo wanted to scare one so that it would show off its tail feathers. We did see a peahen, pheasants, pigs, a tower of goats:



And these meerkats, who were – and I quote – “doing that meerkat thing”. Yes, that was me that said that. If blogging doesn’t work out I’m considering being the next David Attenborough. But, for your delight, here they are sitting up and doing the meerkat thing:



<Space for readers to make their own, car insurance-based jokes before we can possibly move on></car insurance-based jokes>

We also saw some cranes, with a patch of red atop their heads that Reuben eloquently describes as “like a piece of chorizo”. He’s going to be my nature-reporting sidekick. There was also a pretty, and only recently restored, lake:



And a crocodile! In the playground, rather than in the lake:



We’d moved onto the playground by this point because Roo had heard the word and was asking for it repeatedly. The zoo probably deserved more of our time, but the boy wanted to do a little monkeying around of his own:


There’s a couple of climbing frames, all new and shiny, with a loose animal theme (a tunnel was a rabbit burrow, for example). Some bits on the bigger frame were a bit hard for Roo to do alone but quite frankly, I think he was just being a bit wussy.

After a quick play, it was time for a picnic lunch and, just in case this day wasn’t ambitious enough, Katy had a plan. It involved a prime kite-flying spot and more kites than we had children. Fittingly enough, there were many ups and downs with this plan. Her face in this photo may illustrate a “down” moment, where it all seemed to be more about untangling bits of string and less of running around singing Mary Poppins songs:



But then there were glorious moments when it all came together and the wind was right, and the children were running in the right direction and the strings were untangled and it all worked!



Of course, the struggles only made those moments all the sweeter. There’s a message in here somewhere. Possibly that message is “Don’t imagine that kite-flying is the kind of thing that small children can do alone while you relax on a picnic blanket.”

Time was getting on and we needed to traverse London again to fetch Eva. All three kids had spotted these giant bouncy things on the way in, but neither Katy nor I were super-keen to spend time and money on them when there was so much else to do:


So we spent money on something more worthwhile instead – an ice cream! The cafe had an amazing looking selection, all piled up gelateria-style and…did I just drool on the keyboard a little there? Whoops. I was pretty full from our picnic but Roo never says no to one, so chose blue flavour:


I’m not sure what I would have gone for, but the Haribo one looked pretty intriguing. Incidentally, the park cafe takes card which is both rare and useful to know.

Sadly, we did have to rush a bit and so didn’t get time to check out this awesome maze:



Maybe we’ll come back another day. After all, we had a lovely day with our very gracious hosts. Kit says that Reuben is his best friend now (I suspect that he was impressed by Roo’s superhero knowledge). And the journey isn’t too arduous,  especially if Roo reads silently for the entire journey like he did on the way there:



One borough of West London – done! Bring on the Hillingdons and Hounslows…

More information here (official website)


Posted in Food in cages! Walking around! Or maybe some alpacas! (Farms and zoos), Token attempts at fresh air (parks) | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kidzania – 25/07/15


Well, where to start with Kidzania? Let’s start in West London, a place much maligned and neglected by LWAT but the focus of a “Getting to know you” campaign this summer.  The particular bit of West London we visited today was Shepherd’s Bush, and the all-new Kidzania theme park at Westfield, in association with the Mumsnet Bloggers Network. You may join us, if you will, outside the tube, where Eva’s scooter has just broken:



Bah, GrumpyNathan! This has happened to us out and about before but you’ll be pleased to know that this time we found all the parts and managed to repair it once we got home. But it did mean we were dragging a broken scooter around all day and Eva had to use her “yegs” for once. Not ideal when we had our usual huge amounts of stuff with us anyway.

A distraction was on the horizon though, as Westfield had – like its Stratford cousin - turned a bit tropical:



We didn’t pause to try out the deckchairs, as I was feeling the need for coffee before we tackled the big KZ and first off we had to stop by the satellite ticket office and check we were OK to go in without print outs of the tickets. The office is here, outside M&S on the First Floor:


And luckily, an e-ticket on Nathan’s phone worked just fine as a ticket. I’m not sure what I would have done without Nathan, given how unsmart my current phone is…but I didn’t need to worry about it. We got coffees from the Starbucks downstairs, where Eva insisted on sitting not with us but opposite two random girls who, happily, didn’t seem to mind the intrusion. They even gave her some popchips, which was a bit of a win for Eva.


Then we came upstairs, found the actual front door and ascended to the third floor “check-in desks”.


Yes, they’re exactly as you imagine. KidZania has a bit of an airport theme (as one of the most popular activities is in partnership with BA). So, at the top of the escalators there are queue barriers, leading to a bank of desks where you check in. Along the way, there are lots of things to look at, like these posters of KidZanias around the world:



I think KidZania London is something like the 19th location around the world and it started as a Mexican company. But KidZania is officially its own country, as a plaque on the floor explains. Hence the International Airport (you also go through Customs when you leave).

Check-in involved us all getting electronic bracelets – child ones to tag into activities and parental ones to keep track of those children. Here’s Roo, showing his off:


He was also issued with 50 KidZos – the official currency of KidZania (although don’t worry, the restaurants and the merchandise shop inside all give you the chance to spend actual pounds as well). For those who are completely unfamiliar with the KidZania concept, I’m going to explain it slowly now. If you already know it all, feel free to skip on. You can join us again after the picture of the kids with the KidZania sign that differs ever so slightly from the picture at the top of the post (it contains approx 50% more terror).

So, the KZ Concept. It’s a miniature city, for miniature people. Aimed at the 4-14 age group, it’s a chance for kids to take part in real-life scenarios – working as anything from couriers to pilots. For some experiences, they’ll earn a salary that they can pay into their KidZania bank account or use to buy things at the Department Store. For other experiences, they’ll need to pay to do it. All in KidZos, naturally. Each activity lasts around 15 minutes (some- like the acting class – are much longer) and are fully immersive, with costumes and realistic props. The under 4s are catered for too, with their own preschool area, but they don’t get the KidZos on arrival and can’t take part in the role playing activities that make up most of the city. Are you ready to see what Roo and Eva made of it all? Read on…


Are you back with us, skimmers? Good-oh! Well, the official advice on check-in is to take a walk around the city before deciding what to do but we had a stop to make first – at the Big Yellow Storage unit, to dump the broken scooter and various other bags. The guy running Big Yellow seemed a little unsure on what to charge for a scooter (it’s £5 to store a buggy, £3 for a locker) but happily it fit into one of the bigger lockers so we just used that.

Unencumbered, we set off into the city with a plan – I would stick with Roo and Nathan would take Eva to the preschool bit. This almost fell apart when Eva ran off on her own down the main street but we got her back and I believe Nathan kept a slightly tighter grip on her thereafter.  I don’t actually know, as we lost sight of them minutes after locking up the scooter…but he did appear with her later so I can only assume he didn’t lose her too many times.

Roo and I started our visit on the tour bus, which was just about to leave. Our tour guides were, naturally, kids who were working at the radio station so it was a slightly nervous rendition of the KZ script that we heard. Still, it was helpful to see around all the different activities and get a feel for the size of the thing. Roo was very keen on the idea of firefighting, along with every other child in the world, so as soon as we got off the bus we joined our first queue.



Now, the queues. There’s no getting around the queues at KidZania. Every review I’ve read so far has mentioned them and I’m not going to buck the trend. The problem is that the 20-minute activities are all-or-nothing kinda deals – you can’t join in halfway through. So even if you arrive 5 minutes after an activity has started and it’s only half-full, you can’t join in until the next cycle starts. Every activity has a limited capacity, so if there are more than about 8 people in front of you in a queue, you know that you’re going to need to wait till the cycle after next. This is all tricky with a small child.

There are loads of issues with the system as it stands at the moment. There’s nothing to do in the queues, so you spend precious KZ minutes entertaining your own child in a confined space. There’s no-one managing the queues, so other kids can easily push in front of yours. And there’s the torment of a child having to watch others having fun when their own fun is half an hour away. As I said, this is all tricky.

But not insurmountable! An extra staff member on the busy queues would make a world of difference – someone to keep kids informed about how long the wait is, keeping track of who’s allowed into the next session and maybe even providing some in-queue entertainment. A step on front that would be maybe a ticket system like they have at Clarks or a screen somewhere, telling you which sessions were starting soon and how full they were. The fire station had a manual clock showing when the next session started but it clearly wasn’t right (it was 1:30 when we were queuing and the clock said the next session started at 12:45). So we were in the queue for 20 minutes without knowing when we’d be out of the queue and having not had much in the way of fun yet. I can forsee this being a repeated complaint among parents but there are some relatively simple solutions to the problem that I hope they’ll consider. Everything about KidZania is so sophisticated, except this one part…but it’s something that comes to dominate your afternoon.

When he did get called in to the fire station, Roo was thrilled. He paid his KidZos, put on his hairnet and helmet and got ready to learn about fire:


Ysee, this is totally educational too. And the fire station, like everything else, is super cute:



They watched a video on fire safety, practised some firefighting techniques (drop and roll, crawling through smoke) and awaited a call out. When the emergency call came in, Roo was a little worried:


But also excited as he piled into the fire engine and they drove off, chanting “We are the firefighters!”:




The fire was at the Flamingo Hotel, which seems to be a bit of a cursed building, given how often it sets alight. In a cleverly synchronised move, all three emergency services arrived at once – the police set up the barriers, only letting the fire engine and ambulance through, and the firefighters jumped out to man the hoses:


Was it exciting? Yeah! Exciting enough to justify all the waiting? Heck yeah! Reuben super-enjoyed himself, especially when the building caught back on fire after they thought they’d put it out.

He was so buoyed up that he was ready to try another popular activity straight away. I suggested that maybe he should try a less popular one first, because he might be able to walk straight in. Maybe the power station? But no, the boy wanted to make chocolate:

On joining the queue, it seemed that our luck was in. The next session started in 5 minutes, the capacity was 8 kids and there were 7 in the queue ahead of him. I counted them many times to make sure. So, what happened as the doors opened? Well, the kid behind Roo pushed in front and he was left outside, pressing his nose against the glass. Literally:



I have to admit, that bit kinda made me cross. The child was one of the older, unsupervised ones so there was no parent I could politely point out the error to. And the person running the session didn’t seem overly bothered that it had happened. She just told us that the next session started in half an hour and we should queue now to guarantee a place.

So we queued for 30 minutes, watching other people making chocolate. Like I say before, there’s room for improvement in this system.

But let’s be positive. Because at that point, I spotted Nathan and Eva and caught up with what they’d been doing. And now you can too! They’d been to the Science Lab, where Eva was taught to make bubble mix:



And the kindergarten, which was full of brightly coloured toys, and fun and noisy things:


No, I mean really noisy:



When I met them, they’d just come out of the RightZKeepers Residence, which Eva was very keen to show me. I’d just watched Reuben going into his chocolate session at last, so I left Nathan watching him and followed Eva into what turned out to be a giant playhouse.



The playhouse was fab. Partnered by the Early Learning Centre, it had that trademark ELC mix of educational play with sheer,fun tactileness. There were four rooms – kitchen, bathroom, lounge and bedroom and each one contained many treats for the curious preschooler.

The lounge had a shelf full of books, and a little sofa just perfect for sitting down and reading on:



Oh, and it also had a dressing up box, which is why she’s dressed as a knight. She was on the look out for a princess to rescue, but none of the other children obliged her. Who could say no to this dashing rescuer?:



The bedroom was all made out of soft play material, with beds you can jump on and walls you can jump off:


And it’s also handy for a lie-down, as I saw one father having.

The kitchen is stocked with play food and drinks, including this very full salad tray:


I doubt Eva’s ever seen that many vegetables assembled in her life. It also had a rack of plates, which one of my friends would be itching to rearrange into rainbow colour:


My favourite bit was the bathroom, where a giant square bath was filled with wobbly virtual water and fish. I’m sure I’m not doing it justice with that description, so here’s a few photos. Take note of the number of umbrellas Eva needs in the bath:






By now, I was feeling considerably less grumpy – it was the effect of an activity which was free, unlimited and didn’t require queuing. Roo, meanwhile had been enjoying his chocolate making:



And soon, he came to join his sister in the bath, dressed as a policeman (apparently):



I’m not sure whether Roo was meant to be in the playhouse or not, but he needed a bit of letting off steam time after so much queuing and some structured, listening-to-instructions kinda activities. So I let him play, only asking of him that he tried not to squash the little ones too much.

Eva refused to leave the house when Roo and Nathan did, so we played some more while they were off trying to spend the rest of their KidZos:



We were due to have afternoon tea in the Stadium at 4, so I eventually bribed her downstairs with the promise of cake. We found the boys in a games room next to the Stadium, where they’d paid a princely 8 KidZos to play Jenga:


Unfortunately, they were being turfed out as we arrived so Eva and I paid another 8 KidZos to play Connect 4 for a few minutes before joining the rest of the Mumsnet party for some very well-earned cake and tea.

It was nice to sit down after a full-on three hours of KidZania. But Eva, as ever, was unpredictable and requested a loo trip just as I was taking my first dram of tea and first bite of pastry. We spent a few minutes in the bathroom and on the way back, caught the last seconds of the KidZania dance. Apparently, 5 times a day all the staff stop what they’re doing and do a giant synchronised dance routine in all corners of the city. It was awesome to see. And as soon as we got back, a big blue dog mascot was waiting to greet the kids:


The official photographer got some nice pictures of Eva hugging the dog. I only have her running away from it like a loon. A dance class followed, during which I could finally sit down and have my tea, as well as snaffling Eva’s cake. Then it was pretty much home time – we picked up our lovely goody bags (cuddly pilots! Chocolate!!) and went back through Customs, redeeming Roo’s Cadbury’s voucher as we did so (more chocolate!). We were so tired that we just sat on the Central Line for 21 stops all the way back to Woodford because, quite frankly, it was easier than moving.

So, verdict on KidZania? Well, there’s a lot of fun to be had. The set up is unlike anything I’ve ever seen and the detail is impressive. Roo really enjoyed the experiences and would have liked to have done more than two, but I’m not sure I could have coped with more queuing. If they could sort the queuing systems out, it would be non-stop aceness..but as it is, it’s a good day out but not a perfect one.

Disclaimer: I received free entry to KidZania in return for this review. All opinions remain honest and my own.

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London Without a Toddler – The Railway Children

The Railway Children

Photo credit Johan Persson

The LWAT family has had an addition these last few days. Sadly not a permanent addition but happily one that’s already toilet-trained – my 13-year-old niece Natalie. She’s featured on the blog before, as a 9-year-old, and she even has her own blog nowadays. Check it out!

Anyway, we were looking for fun after a hard day chasing the kids around a North London estate park and luckily I had the perfect soothing treat lined up – a trip to see the newly-extended production of The Railway Children just behind King’s Cross.

So, we dumped Roo and Eva at the station with a man who may or may not be Nathan and headed up King’s Boulevard towards the ticket office. If you want to do similar, this is the exit you’ll need:


You know that when I say “do similar”, I mean going to the theatre, not the dumping your children on a random man in a station, right? LWAT takes no responsibility for your actions.

The box office is fairly easy to find – as you turn onto Goods Way by the canal and the green steps there’s a giant red arrow which should help you out:


And just look at the on-themeness of this box office!



I loved it all already. The seating was on theme too – you could either be on Platform 1 or Platform 2, and the stage was built into both, as well as a floating part in the middle which constantly changed depending on the scene. I was wondering how you’d get 1000 seats onto two platforms, but long rows of 50 along the length of the stage make it happen. And it also means you’re never far from the action.


From the start, this was an interactive show. The actors walked along the stage, waving and smiling to the audience and stopping to chat – that doesn’t happen very often in the West End. The period detail is impressive and the vintage posters really set the scene. There’s an interesting narrative device where Roberta, Phyllis and Peter are all played by adults but recalling the story from their childhood. There is a glimpse of the characters as actual children at one point, but that comes as a bit of a shock – you’ve become so used to these grown ups playing the characters that you forget that they’re meant to look a little smaller than they are. It made me wonder how old the film actors were in the 1970 version and I bet you’re wondering too. So here’s the answer – 16, 18 and 20. And the 20-year-old was Phyllis! I was shocked too.

I suppose what I’m saying is that the age of the actors in this production does nothing to detract from their performance as children – there’s a youthful exuberance to their actions that completes the illusion. They all run a lot, up and down the platforms and, of course, wave. What would the Railway Children be without a lot of waving? Just children, I guess.

The performance is pretty faithful to the plot of the book with a few theatrical touches thrown in. It feels a little episodic but that is very much in the spirit of the book and actually, the episodes all build to something – the bit with the hamper establishes their relationship with the Old Gentleman, the bit with the coal sets them on a rocky path towards friendship with Perks. It does all work together, but if you’re looking for “Die Hard”-style non-stop action, then this is not the show for you. Why did you think it would be the show for you??

Joking aside, it is a gentle tale. There’s nothing violent or explicit in the story, despite a background of political unrest (see the Mr Szczepansky back story). It is about doing your best under the circumstances, finding joy in the midst of trouble and other such examples of British pluck. No wonder the Americans beside us were delighted with it – it’s the very epitome of Englishness, complete with butlers, between-maids (“What does she do?” ponders Phyllis), grammar school boys and Union Jacks a-plenty.  That’s not to say it’s cliched, it’s just classic.

There is a bit more of a comedy edge than you’d find in the book or the film and that mainly comes from the actors’ asides to the audience. When they mention the whitewashed line around the coal, Bobby urges you to remember that bit…and then Peter urges you to forget it. Anyone who obsessively read the book as a child will know why that’s funny. There’s a few of those moments, but they don’t break the fourth wall so often that it becomes annoying. Most of the time, you get just let yourself get really absorbed in the story.

Of course, everyone in the audience is sort of waiting for one thing through the first act, and that’s the 60-ton “leading lady” – the steam train. Every time they mention a train going, you can feel the anticipation and then the slight disappointment when it’s just a sound effect and a lot of steam. But I was pretty confident I knew the point at which they’d introduce her…and you might know it too. It’s towards the end of the first act and I’ll give you a clue – it involves some underwear. Red underwear.

The train makes another key appearance towards the end as well, and again I felt like I knew what was coming. That was good, because a) it meant I could get my tissues ready and b) I was looking at the right end of the stage when everyone else seemed to be watching Bobby and Perks by the bridge. So I’m guessing a few people missed the first appearance of a top-hatted figure emerging through the smoke but I’m glad to say I didn’t. Daddy, oh my Daddy. Yes, I cried.

So it’s a production that no fan of the book would feel disappointed in. It hasn’t done anything weird or radical with the story but still manages to keep it fresh. I’m glad I didn’t have the kids with me, as I think they’re too young for it – it wasn’t nearly superhero-heavy enough to keep Roo’s interest for 2 hours. I saw some families with young children there but I’d say it was probably one for older kids and adults,partly because of the length and partly because of the subtlety of the story (I’ve been to a lot of toddler theatre and one thing it is not is subtle!). It was a lovely evening out for me and Nat and yes, she cried too.

The show is on till 3rd January 2016 and there are both matinee and evening performances. More details here.

Disclaimer: I received free tickets in exchange for this review. All opinions remain honest and my own.


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Beach East – 17/07/15



Do you ever worry that LWAT is losing its edge? That we have complex days out that seem to go well, with barely a hint of preschooler meltdown? Well, fear no more. Here’s a tale of a day that should have been simple but didn’t take into account that most unpredictable of elements…the Eva element.

It started well. We were going on a field trip to Stratford with some of our local mum friends, so started out with a long bus journey with Bunny and BunnyMummy. That worked pretty well, as the small girls could just talk at each other rather than at their long-suffering mothers (but why are you long-suffering, Mummy?). We got off the bus at Stratford International because that was the closest stop to the bit of the Olympic Park we wanted to get to – take note, transport fans – and it also handily provided me with cash, coffee and cake. We were well prepared for a day at the fake beach next to the Aquatic Centre. The weather wasn’t looking particularly awesome, but that would just mean more space for us, right?

Probably, but first we had to find it. It’s not far from the Aquatic Centre, so from The Street in Westfield head out towards the Orbit, cross Westfield Avenue and then, just past the Aquatic Centre, you’ll find a lift that takes you down beside the waterway. From there it’s easy to find Beach East. If the first sentence of this paragraph reads like a foreign language, then clearly you don’t spend enough time in E20 (no, not Walford..)

From above, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s more of a funfair than a beach:




But sure enough, once you get to ground level there’s a massive sandpit, a pretty big paddling pool and palm trees in pots (more on those later). There are also rides, a bouncy castle and eye-wateringly expensive Hook-a-Duck (£4!). There were also more of those ominous grey skies:


This didn’t deter us, being British and all, so we settled down on the sand on in deckchairs to enjoy our muffins:



Which blatantly would end up in the sand later, but never mind. Bunny had very bravely gone for a paddle, although reports say she found it a bit chilly. BunnyMummy was equally bravely muttering things about “bracing dips” and it being “just like Cornwall” but really, I’d say Scotland was probably closer to the mark at 10AM on a cloudy day.



None of which deterred Eva from following her BFF into the pool. Except she didn’t really paddle, just kinda faffed about on the side. I, on the other hand, was in the water up to my ankles…which is how I knew it felt a bit Scottish.



You can see in this photo Bunny’s discarded “hat”. You can also see how Eva’s own hat isn’t quite fitting. Apparently her swimsuit is 6-9 months. Whoops.


A few minutes’ looking at the water and she decided that sand play was the safer option:



Although even the sand had an element of danger to it, given that there were PE classes being held all over the place, and the strip of sand between the deckchairs and the paddling pool had teenagers on it, throwing balls to each other. Who thought it was a good idea to combine these things? Eva kept wandering into cricket pitches and hula hoop classes and I felt a bit like she was getting in the way. But also, it’s a public space and having so many different things going on seemed like bad planning.

At one point, the threatening weather turned into something less of a threat and more of a reality. It rained. And we sat on the beach straight through it. Told you we were British.



But then, miracle of miracles, the sun broke through! We could start relaxing now, couldn’t we?

Well, no. Eva was hungry and it was almost lunch time, so we checked out the food options. There was a noodle bar, a Turkish pizza stand and of course, the traditional Ye Olde English hotdogs:


Eva wanted chips, so we bought a £3 portion from the fried chicken stand and used this most curious contraption to ketchup them:



If you ever wondered what a ketchup dairy would be like, here’s your chance to try.

Getting back to the sand, Eva tried one or two chips before spitting them out and saying “I don’t like chips anymore”.

She what now? Huh? She liked chips 10 minutes ago…


Spitting isn’t on. Neither is making your mother sacrifice a mortgage payment to get you food you then don’t eat. I let her know that this kind of behaviour was going to lead to a swift exit from the Fun Place.

She called my bluff “OK. I want to go home.”

I don’t make idle threats. We visited the toilets, got her changed, picked the sandy chips up and put them in the bin and started walking off. Happily for her, Bunny was being equally erratic and also wanted to go home. After an hour in the Fun Place! Tsk,kids today. Well, at least we had company on the way home.

Although that way home was very nearly diverted to an A&E department after a particularly strong gust of wind knocked a palm tree onto Bunny. And we’re not talking about a tiny pot plant here:



I’m not quite sure how Bunny was unscathed, given it fell right across her buggy, but she somehow was. We called a security person over to deal with him and let him know how close we’d been to disaster and how close they’d been to a lawsuit.

“Yeah, they do that all the time” he said.

They fall over on children’s heads all the time?? Well, LWAT readers don’t say you haven’t been warned.

Slightly shell shocked, we headed back through Westfield, stopping at Westfield to buy ourselves some lunch and to try and entice the small girls to eat. Eva asked for a packet of chorizo, a packet of cocktail sausages and some cucumber and carrot dippers. Lunch attempt #2 was a little healthier than expensive chips, but would any of this actually end up in her stomach?


Yes, as it turns out. Because, in the concrete plaza behind Stratford International, she and Bunny were happy. There was nothing there to entertain them, but they made their own fun playing hide and seek:


and “Bunnies go to Bed”:



And generally climbing on these hard, chewing gum-covered, star-shaped benches:



Really?? This was more fun than that whole beach thing we’d just left behind? Apparently so. Once again, never try to understand how these tiny minds work. Sigh.

So, Beach East is a fun place to visit but be aware that your crazy child may prefer playing “Spot the Hipster” outside the Craft Beer bar and chasing pigeons. Also, they might get hit by falling palm trees. Enjoy!


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A Letter to My Elected Representative – Thank You For Representing Me



Dear Iain Duncan Smith

How are you? I hear that you were at Highams Park Day on Saturday, just like we were. Did you have fun? Were you sad that the bar ran out of beer? My husband was. He hates it when someone else’s decisions affect his ability to meet his basic needs, in this case a pint. Don’t you hate that too? As it happened, he made do with a fruit cider. I hope you found a good alternative too.

I just want to say a big Thank You for representing me. You’re my local MP and you represent MY views to the House of Commons and gosh darn, I appreciate that. Let me tell you all the ways in which you represent me – I’m happily married, in a 2-parent, 2-child family. We’re white, straight and middle-class. We own our own house. We’re both employed. I’ve never really stopped working, even when the kids were little – we are your epitome of a hard-working family. I once went 10 years without taking a day off sick…so that’s good news, given I don’t fancy funding my own sick pay. And people who have a problem with that, well they should just stop getting sick, shouldn’t they?

You see, Iain, not everyone is like me. Not everyone can do this working hard, not being sick, owning house thing. And occasionally, just occasionally, it occurs to me that none of us are that far from disaster. What would it really take, Iain, to derail this comfortable life I have? A accident? A chronic illness? A divorce? A redundancy? A slight change in interest rates? If those things should happen to me, Iain, would you still represent me? Would you still make decisions in Parliament that are purely for my benefit?

I find it hard to believe that you would. I believe that the moment I fell out of the exact demographic that you’re “working for”, I would be lost to you, just like so many other people in your constituency and around the country that can’t work. The ones that can’t get themselves out of poverty. The ones crippled by sanctions and the bedroom tax, surviving on literally no income while you decide how best to dehumanize them next. Or the ones not surviving, because there are plenty of those too. How many? We don’t know, because your department keeps refusing to release the statistics. In fact, you denied that the figures ever existed.

I work hard for a reason, Iain. I work hard because I can and it’s my duty as part of society to support those who can’t. Why do you work Iain? Is it to squeeze money out of those same people, because it’s a darn sight easier than closing a few tax loopholes? I understand you need to make some money. You have targets to hits. In fact, as someone who contributes to your salary, I’d like to know what your sales figures are like. How much did you save by sanctioning the sick and the disabled? Or are those figures similarly lost on the breeze?

Numbers clearly aren’t your thing but words are something you’re really good at. You can construct a double negative with aplomb – “I am not saying people won’t be worse off.” – and you’re the master of the euphemism – “We need to support the kind of products that allow people through their lives to dip in and out when they need the money for sickness or care or unemployment”. What kind of products are these? Moisturiser? A handy gadget for hulling strawberries? It’s summer and I could really do with one of those, but I don’t see how it would help me pay my own sick pay.  Maybe the extra vitamin C would keep me healthy.

But I’m getting off track here. I get easily distracted by my lively children, who are neurologically typical (at a stretch, anyway) and physically able. Again, if they weren’t, that would probably be a bit of a sticking point in the whole being-able-to-work thing. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that they’re so “normal” because if there’s one thing I’ve learned from five years living under a Tory government, it’s to be grateful for what I have and to fear ever losing it. Because there’s no safety net. The  layers of protection that have been put in place to protect the vulnerable are being systemically stripped away. I hope my situation never changes. You should hope your situation never changes. And for those already at the bottom, whose situation needs to change? Forget them Iain. They’re nothing to you. As you have proved over and over again.

From me, thanks. You represent me. I didn’t vote for you and I never will, which seems churlish when you clearly have my best interests at heart. But this nagging voice inside me keeps saying that maybe democracy shouldn’t just be for the white, middle class families. Maybe, just maybe, it should be for everyone.

Scrub that. Crazy talk. You just be you.




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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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