You know that feeling when you’re trying to condense an entire half term into one day? Well, that was today. The kids have been away at the grandparents’ all week while Nathan and I worked, and I had this one day with them to show ’em a good time. So we had to fit a lot in. You’ll be surprised to learn that we did, indeed, fit a lot in.
Join us as we fuel up for the day at Highams Lounge, right opposite Highams Park station. It’s a recently refurbished cafe that the kids like because it has novelty “bookshelf” wallpaper that they can pretend to take books from:
It also does huge milkshakes that are totally wasted on Eva because she drinks a few sips and then is done. But Reuben drained his as I drained my coffee and, having had a swift catch up with some friends, we were off to the City for a visit to a City Farm.
For complex reasons, we ended up catching the bus from Liverpool St to Oval and the children enjoyed it because we got to see London Landmarks such as the Gherkin, the Monument and Daddy’s Office. As we stopped at traffic lights on King William Street, near Bank, Roo and Eva had a discussion about what the “stripy building” beside us might be.
“There’s a cafe at the bottom, which is something I like” announced Reuben. I didn’t tell him that it was a Tossed, as Nathan has now taught the kids that you don’t win friends with salad.
“I think the rest of it is a soft play” decided Eva, somewhat optimistically.
Of course, who am I to tell her she’s wrong? For all I know there could indeed be a 3-storey soft play above a salad cafe in the City. If anyone could confirm one way or the other, the children and I would be most grateful.
Soon though, we were off the bus and wandering down our old ‘hood of Kennington Park Road, which has edged towards hipsterism since last I saw it. There was a new art supplies shop and a trendy coffee place – hopefully there are still some families who can afford to live in the area in order to enjoy these things.
And the same thought applies to Vauxhall City Farm, which has had a spruce up and a brand new bit since last I saw it. We were there with Auntie Savage, on her lunch break, and she’d told us about the big new cafe they have there now. Given I spent two mat leaves trudging around VCF in the rain, I would have gladly welcomed a cafe back then…so I was curious to see what it was like.
Yes, it was big. I think I counted 11 tables plus a small play/reading area and a bit at the back where they were doing crafts. I have only the fuzziest of photos to show you but hey, at least I got my phone camera to work today (goodbye Guitar Tuna app…it’s been emotional):
Reuben settled into the corner to read a book, which was only slightly awkward as the bookshelf was behind the crawling babies…but he didn’t trample any of them:
In fact he outstayed most of the babies and claimed the area as his own:
Eva was sitting at the table, chatting to Auntie Savage. It was all going well…and then it wasn’t going quite so well.
It was 12:30 by this point but the place was packed out. Obviously others had had the same half-term idea. And so the lunch options were limited. There were a few sandwiches left, but nothing my kids would eat because they were all a bit on the fancy side (ham – tick for Reuben, cider chutney – not so much). There was a sign saying “Kids’ sandwiches” and a space on the blackboard for “Kids’ Hot Special of the Day” but both were empty. So I asked at the till, but there wasn’t much they could offer me. Eventually, after some negotiation, they agreed to provide a slice of rye toast along with my meal (the hot special – chicken and lentil stew).
I wasn’t sure this would go well and I was right to be unsure. Luckily I had packed an emergency stash of chorizo slices and mini sausages but the kids weren’t impressed by the rye bread and fussed about their chorizo touching the fancy butter. Eva pulled out her full repetoire of annoying table tricks – the nibbling without actually consuming, the putting food in and out of her mouth without touching the sides, the “I don’t yiiiiiiikkkkkkke it”. There were scenes.
Fortunately, all went better after lunch. We went to see the animals and they at least were not reluctant to feed. Defying the influence of both my father and Auntie Savage, I paid for some animal feed and we waved it in front of this chap here:
At which point, I turned round to see an old friend and suddenly the alpaca was half over the fence headbutting me to get his food. I was too surprised to get a photo, but luckily he re-enacted the moment later with Reuben:
Duck and cover, boy. Talking of which, the ducks have a new home:
So cute, with the bunting and the heart-shaped duck windows. This is one of the new bits, opposite the cafe and the flats on top of it. The rest of the farm looks much as it ever did, but the kids were very excited to run around and look at the guinea pigs, goats, bunnies and chickens.
Then we had a go at magic wand-making, back in the cafe:
Naturally, I was very tempted by the idea of a cuppa and a sit down in the Tea House itself but time was moving on and we had a long journey home ahead of us. Little did I realise that the bit from Vauxhall to Walthamstow (43 minutes including a toilet break) would be shorter than the bit from Walthamstow to Highams Park (50 minutes, including a fallen tree on the line). My phone was dead, the children were getting restless and we were all a little jaded by the time we got off a very slow-moving bus. The remedy? A glass of wine, a cup of coffee and a brownie at Pantry & Co. Yes, in that order and yes, it was an unusual combination but yes, it helped me get through the remainder of the day. You should try it.
So, a busy day and mostly fun with the exception of lunchtime tension. The cafe and renovations have hugely improved Vauxhall City Farm but they probably need to rethink their lunch offerings over busy periods if there’s going to be nothing left by half twelve. Still, I realise it’s only just opened and all new ventures have their teething problems. I’m sure it’ll find its way soon enough. Oh yes, and never forget you’re in Sarf London: