Thursday, 16 August 2018

The Museum of Jewish Life and the Regent's Canal

This will be the last museum visit of the holidays, as the Boy appears to be museumed out!  Don't blame him.... however, his mother suggested we take them to the Jewish Museum as there was an exhibition there about the life and work of Rene Goscinny, the co-creator of Asterix, and, of course, the Boy loves Asterix.  To the point that, uninterested in the displays, he sat down and read the various books on display, although he knows them well. 

I found the displays quite interesting - they were mostly about his life and early work, once he and Uderzo invented Asterix, he never looked back.  Of course, he also wrote the "Petit Nicolas" books, but they weren't mentioned. 

The display was on the top floor of the Jewish Museum; the displays further down were arguably more interesting; there were plenty of things for the children to do - a broken jug to reassemble, a game of snakes and ladders to play, and the Boy spent ages with an interactive display of Yiddish theatre.  Boy Two kept having to be reminded to use his indoor voice and not run, so I hope he wasn't too bored.  The curator tactfully steered them away from the displays about the Holocaust. The first floor of the museum was about Jewish faith and worship, and again there was plenty to interest the children, asking them to find the various animals on the menorahs, and so on.

When we had finished with the museum, it was just about lunch time, so we got our coats and bags back from the cloakroom - still wet; we had been caught in an extreme shower just after leaving the Underground - and walked up to Camden Lock market to choose street food.  Boy Two and the Swan Whisperer both chose burgers, and got a chips to share; the Boy chose a pizza with pepperoni on it, and I got a vegetarian pita bread - that stall was really nice as they had two vegetarian choices; one was mushrooms and halloumi, which I had (although it would have been nicer had the halloumi been crisper, but it was still tasty), and the other was hard-boiled egg and something.

After that, we each had a salted caramel mini-cupcake for pudding, and then we wandered through the market to the canal basin, where the water bus to Little Venice was waiting.  We were the only passengers!  It was a lovely run; the boys weren't quite as interested as I had hoped they would be, but they had workbooks to do, and they both enjoyed seeing wildlife, and the jackals in the zoo, which gratifyingly ran alongside the boat for the length of their cave!


When we arrived at Little Venice, we decided the easiest thing to do was to head to Farringdon, which is only about 15 minutes' walk from the Temple, and the boys' father met us there and took the boys back in charge, while we got the Thameslink home.

Thursday, 2 August 2018

Fulham Palace and Bishop's Park

A hundred years ago - well, the best part of 50 years ago, anyway - when I first came to London, I lived in Fulham, but Fulham Palace, back then, was not open to the public - in fact, Bishops had only just stopped living there!  Bishop's Park was open, but who had time to go to parks without small children to amuse?

So neither the Swan Whisperer or I had ever been there, and we decided to take the boys there.  We picked them up from the Temple at about 10:30, and went straight to Putney Bridge on the District Line (blissful air-conditioned trains, lovely!).  There were an awful lot of steps down from Putney Bridge, which my knees didn't really like, but once we were down it was a lovely walk along the Thames Path.
When we arrived in the park, there was a large children's playground, which I think Boy 2 might have liked to have played in, but The Boy turned his nose up!  We walked round the lake, and across a bridge that Boy 2 described as "Ribenary", which wasn't a bad description, we didn't think.  The Boy was very disappointed to realise it was plastic, not real wood painted purple!
We spent a few minutes watching potential footballers training at Craven Cottage,
and then walked back to the Palace proper.  We went first of all into the Palace gardens where the boys enjoyed (typical small boys!) "picking the bishop's nose" - a carved wooden bishop, I hasten to add:
Then we walked round the walled gardens, and then it was time for lunch.  We went into the palace itself to enjoy the "Dining Room".  The children's menu was a choice of pizza or chicken goujons with baked beans - both boys chose the chicken, which also came with a small salad.  I thought they were rather optimistic, but in fact, Boy 2 ate all of his, and The Boy ate a good third of his.  Mind you, it did have a very sweet dressing (we finished The Boy's, as he didn't want it!).  I had a panini with mediterranean vegetables and hummus, and the SW had what was described as "The ulitmate" ham and cheese toastie, but frankly, that was an offence against the Trades Description act, as it looked very manky.  Then the boys and I had ice-cream, and the SW had a cup of coffee and a slice of cake. 

Then it went a bit pear-shaped, as we went into the museum, and enjoyed looking at some of the things, but then we needed the loo, so I took the boys while the SW went on looking round, but when we came back, we found the officious librarian had moved the scooters and was cross with us for bringing t hem in (though there was nowhere obvious to leave them).  So we came away, rather cross, although I felt we really hadn't seen much of what there was to see.

We cheered ourselves up, though, by a visit to All Saints Church at the entrance to the park, which was lovely.  But why do the boys have to remove their hats when they go into a church and I don't have to?  Not a question I could answer, but I still made them take their hats off!

And so we wandered back to the main road, and decided to get a bus to South Kensington to avoid the steps - just as well, as that part of the District Line promptly fell over - and so back to the Temple and a farewell to the boys.

Thursday, 26 July 2018

The London Museum of Water and Steam

I had been wanting to visit this museum for some time, so the first day that we were on grandparent duty in the summer holidays it seemed like an obvious thing to do.

The museum is a few minutes' walk from Kew Bridge station, so, after picking the boys up at Senate House, we caught the 59 bus to Waterloo and then a blissful air-conditioned train to Kew Bridge.  Great giggles from the boys because the computer went pear-shaped and kept telling us we were heading back to Waterloo, and then when they did get it to go to Twickenham, they went the wrong way.... eventually the guard, or whatever they are called these days, had to take over!  But the train was lovely - seemed incredibly spacious, air-conditioned, and generally very nice.  Wish they'd had them when I was taking SW trains regularly!

So anyway, we arrived at the museum and paid our entry fee - two concessions and two kids, but the children were free.  Boy Two, who isn't quite five, would have been free anyway, but The Boy went free as a holiday concession.

We started off in the steam hall, which was quite interesting, but slightly, when you've seen one steam engine you've seen them all.  The history of the building was interesting, though, and we all loved a model which asked you to find the four cats who had lived in the pumping house back in the day - we found them all, even though, to scale, they were the size of ants!

We then moved off into the water area, which was much more interesting - at least, I found it so, and judging by the time they spent there, so did the boys.  It was basically the story of how we got the clean and safe water that today falls out of our taps, from the earliest beginnings of piped water into the home, via the Victorians and so on.  Ditto how the waste was got rid of, and when they began to separate the two.  There were also free water-saving devices on offer, and a card game (which I meant to give the boys before they left, but forgot), and a free chilled water dispenser (you could buy a reusable bottle if you didn't have one, but we all did).  There were also life-sized sewers for the children to crawl into, and handles to pump to move water, and all sorts.  We spent a long time there, but finally moved on to the outdoor "splash zone", which was terrific fun - lots of interactive water play, including one exhibit that both boys loved, where by dint of judiciously placing barriers, you could divert the flow of water to one waterwheel or another, or none. 
Eventually, though, we got hungry and headed to the café for lunch.  The boys each chose an enormous ham and cheese baguette - Boy Two only managed half of his - and we chose quiche, which was lovely, but I'd have liked some salad with it.  Then we each had an ice, and then the boys played with a huge Brio railway layout (they've nearly given up playing with it at home, go figure) while we watched and probably dozed, and then decided to call it a museum and head home. 

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Lambeth Country Show

This year is the 44th Lambeth Country Show, apparently.  We hadn't been for several years, but certainly went every year earlier in our married life - it was one of the Great Unmissables.  In recent years, though, either we had got more staid, or it had got less fun, I don't know, but we hadn't been for some time.  And once the Tour de France had finished for the day, we were both fidgety and wanted exercise, so we decided to go down for the last couple of hours of the first day.

This year, for the first time, they had erected a perimeter fence and required security checks on entering.  You couldn't take a full water bottle in, but you could take a bottle and fill it from one of the many standpipes dotting the grounds.  And you couldn't take in your own alcohol, which has apparently led to much grumbling, quite why when it's not actually necessary to drink to enjoy yourself, I haven't quite worked out.  There were plenty of beer tents, although the product wasn't cheap (would you expect it to be?  Apparently!).  The entrances were huge, and plenty of room so we didn't have to queue for security checks at all.

Actually, there seemed at first to be more loos than anything else, but as you walked further into the site, you saw more and more of the food and drink tents, and then the various shops and charity tents, and so on.
There seems to be much more of it than there used to be, despite the adult fun fair not coming any more (there were plenty of rides and slides and things, though).  The farm section was still there, with birds of prey

and sheep
among others.  Including most of the animals from Vauxhall City Farm, which were as delightful as ever, including 3 alpacas. 

If I had been by myself, I'd have spent a lot longer looking at the various shops and stalls, but of course the Swan Whisperer doesn't really care for that sort of thing.  However, by then it was 7:00 pm so we decided to eat there, and then have our usual Saturday sausages and mash tomorrow.  There was no shortage of choice when it came to food - I had a plateful of Moroccan tagine (vegan),
and the Swan Whisperer had a cheese sausage with sauerkraut from the German stall.  He had wanted the Currywurst, but they had run out.  And we had been going to have an ice cream for pudding, but just as we got ready for that, the van closed up its windows.  It was quite nearly closing time by then, though.

We decided to leave from the Herne Hill exit, on the grounds that the buses would be less full there.  We did just miss a 37, but there wasn't long to wait before the next one, and we were able to get on and get a seat very easily, which was not true by the time it got to Brixton Water Lane!  I don't know what crowds can have been like these past few years, as the place was heaving while we were there, and there were masses of people coming to and from the site on foot (when it was smaller, they provided a car park, but they don't any more as they want, sensibly, to discourage people from using cars when it's not necessary; plus it was horrible for the grass if it was a wet year). 

It was a very enjoyable late afternoon/early evening outing.  But I've done it for this year, and don't want to go back tomorrow, particularly!

Tuesday, 10 July 2018

RAF Centenary Celebrations

We knew there was to be a flypast today, to celebrate the centenary of the RAF.  Of course, it had existed in other forms - notably as the Royal Flying Corps - for some years before then; my great-uncle, Michael Topham, had been a member and had been killed in April 2017, flying back from a raid near Lens, in France.  His name is on the RFC memorial in Arras cemetery.
However, today was about the RAF.  We hadn't realised there was to be a service in Westminster Abbey, and turned the television on just in time to see the Queen coming out of it, looking as though she ought to be using a walking stick but didn't quite like to in public.  We watched the parade and so on for a bit, trying to decide where best we could go to see the flypast, and finally decided that, if possible, we would get a 59 bus to Waterloo Bridge and watch from there, as it was recommended as a good place to see it from.

Because we thought the traffic might be terrible, we left longer than necessary and arrived at Waterloo Bridge with a good 15 minutes to spare.  It was already busy, and got busier! 
The flypast started punctually, and we enjoyed watching the planes come past, although we weren't quite sure which was what.  Chinook helicopters are fairly obvious, of course.
as are the bomber/fighter formation that we so often see at these things:
The flypast continued, with various aircraft past and present, concluding with some wonderful formation flying

 the last of which got a huge cheer.  But the largest cheer was reserved for the very last formation - the beloved Red Arrows:
It took a long time to get off the bridge after they had gone past, but eventually we managed to walk down to Waterloo Station and a much-needed sandwich in Pret a Manger before heading home!

Monday, 2 July 2018

Stoupa Reunion, 1 July

And so the last day of the holiday dawned.  Our coach was due to pick us up at noon, which gave us time to pack and to have a last coffee with our friends.

We ended up waiting 25 minutes for the coach, as they said to be ready 10 minutes in advance, and the coach was 15 minutes late, apparently looking for a couple who had decided to take a taxi to the airport and hadn't bothered to say so.

The so-called "priority booking" channel took ages, but at least they didn't print our boarding-passes again, deeming the ones on my phone were enough.  Security was very quick - I had put all my liquids in a plastic bag, but didn't have time to get them out of my rucksack, and they didn't ask me to!

We boarded the plane 15 minutes late.  Not bad.  But then we sat, and sat, and sat, and the Captain came on the PA to say he was very sorry but one of the computers was down and he'd sent for the engineer to come and fix it.  But when that happened, the other computer went down.... at which point, they said we could get off the plane if we would like, and go back to the terminal, which many people did - the seats there were more comfortable and we could buy sandwiches.  I must shout out the staff in the café - they must have hoped their working day was almost over, but instead they stayed on and made sandwiches for everybody as fast as they could  Very impressive!

Finally, we were called back on to the plane (loud cheers), and eventually it actually moved (even more cheers).  After that, it was straightforward - we arrived at Gatwick at about 9:30 pm local time, and there was the usual lengthy queue for  passport control.  But they have now made this automatic - you put your passport down on the scanner, and look at the screen, and they match them up and you walk straight through.  We waited 10 minutes for a train to Clapham Junction, and then ordered an Uber to take us home, and were home almost exactly 2 hours after arriving at Gatwick.  We did a minimum of unpacking, and flopped into bed, exhausted! 

Saturday, 30 June 2018

Stoupa Reunion, 30 June

Sadly, after the delights of yesterday I found myself too exhausted to move today, and ended up doing nothing but lounging around the apartment, apart from a trip to the bakery to get sandwiches for lunch and one to the supermarket to get sausages for supper.

But yesterday was worth ask the exhaustion and discomfort of today!