Anyone have any idea how to spend 8 hours at the Southbank Centre on a miserable day in December? Well, neither did I. The answer seemed to be “go where the wind takes us” and also “spend lots of money on snacks”. So that’s what we did. I’ll explain the logic but it still only makes sense in a LWAT-y kind of way. It was the first day of the holidays, we were meeting C’sMum in the morning and then Ellie and Wiley were coming to our house in the evening and we didn’t have anything to do between those points. So we might as well just hang round the South Bank until Nathan finished work at 6 and then we could take Ellie and Wiley back to HP with us. Simple, right? Yeah simple. 8 hours with 2 kids on the shortest day of the year. This was gonna be something of a challenge.
So we got there around 10:30 and the Royal Festival Hall was eerily quiet. I grabbed a coffee and deployed the first of the chocolate brussel sprouts that I hoped would sustain the kids through the epic day. I’m gonna say now it was two quid well spent.
We had a good view from the cafe of the Southbank Centre Christmas trees, which were particularly exciting this year. Stressed out mothers everywhere will particularly enjoy the gin themed one I think.
Once C’sMum and the boys arrived, we went outside to have a good poke around the various lobsters, lips and stars. Yes, lobsters.
It was kinda wet underfoot but not actively raining, so perfectly acceptable weather to go for a wander up and down the river. As ever, the benches in H&M-sale-tag-orange were a big hit with all the kids:
And we liked the Christmas market under the bridge, with all manner of exciting sparkly stuff:
There were some intriguing looking tents in the shape of igloos so we went to have a look. Apparently you can hire these to have dinner in while watching the world go by:
I was also starting to suss out the various lunch options – chips ski-style, with melted cheese or chips with deep fried battered halloumi or chips with curry? It was gonna be chips but it was a tough decision. It took me most of the time we were in the playground, watching the kids fight over the swings and putting the world to rights….but we headed back towards the RFH at around 12:45 and the eventual decision was chips with chilli and cheese from somewhere that claimed to be “The Best Chips in London”. They were pretty epic:
C’sMum had the deep fried halloumi and that was pretty good too. Perfect for lining your stomach for a rave. Oh yes, a rave.
This wasn’t something we’d planned but you know the kind of thing you just stumble upon at the Southbank Centre…well, yesterday’s was a family rave complete with kids throwing inflatable bananas around. I spent most of the time wondering where one or other of the children were but we managed to have a bit of a dance to Harry Belafonte along the way. Shake, shake, shake Senora!
After such excitement, it was time for a chill out. The Cs had to head off to go ice skating, and Reuben wanted to climb the stairs all the way to the top of the building so…
It is a lot quieter up there in the higher reaches, certainly compared to a ballroom full of raving children 5 floors down. We had a lot of time still to kill so I thought the poetry library would be a good place to hang out for a bit. But there was a whole new little room waiting for us just outside the poetry library – a “room for children” stocked with books and games and comfy places to read. There was a gentle Nordic theme so some of the books were in Swedish but that’s a minor problem. Eva found an English translation of “Mademoiselle Oiseau” and we snuggled up to read that for a while before she retired into the little hidey hole with a Moomins book:
It was a lovely place to spend a restful hour or so. Where else in London can you go from rave to virtual nap so quickly?
But it wouldn’t do for us to all actually sleep there, so I shook the kids out of their doze by taking them back out into the cold riverside. It wasn’t actually cold at all but yknow, it was a bit of a contrast to the hidey hole. It was 3ish by this point, so we played in the playground again until it started to get too dark and then went for a ride on the carousel:
Where we were joined by our old friend H’sMama, along with H. They were passing through on their way home but joined us for not just a carousel ride but also a Belgian waffle in a tent in the Rekordlerling Cider Lodge garden. The waffles were topped with Nutella and they were messy but good. There was also a pile of cushions for the kids to play “cat and mouse” in. Can you spot Reuben?
I also found some good feminist graffiti:
You go girls! I mean women.
By now, the kids were *starting* to lose it, in an oversugared and overtired manner. But we were so close to the finish line! It was 5, and Ellie was free to meet us so we picked her up outside the London Dungeon and hung out in the Pret there until Nathan and Wiley found us at 6. Swift Happy Meals all round and we were headed homewards. We had made it through, with the minimal amount of arguments although as you’ll discern, the number of eating establishments visited through the day cost me a fortune. Lucky we’re not keeping this pace up for the whole holiday.
So, that’s my recommendation of how to spend an entire day in one place without having any particular end in mind. It wasn’t too busy, toilets are freely available and so is mulled wine if things head in that direction. Why not give it a go on those dead days between Christmas and New Year? What are you doing that’s better?
If I don’t blog again before Christmas, do have yourself a very merry one. See you on the other side!