Friday, 31 October 2014

Tesco Farm to Fork Trail

As part of their educational programme, Tesco's organise what they call "Farm to Fork" trails for schoolchildren - I believe farm visits are included, in some cases, as well as a look round the supermarket.  Normally these are done with primary school classes - I've seen classes going round our local Tesco's and been very impressed at  how engrossed and involved the children were.

So this half-term, Mumsnet teamed up with Tesco and organised Farm to Fork trails in several locations around the country, one of which was Leyton.  They were open to any child aged between 4 and 11, and so the Daughter, having checked with me first, signed up The Boy to be part of it.  She did check that it was okay for Boy Too to trail along in his pushchair, and was told this was fine, although I might have to carry him in the bakery (in fact, I didn't; he was allowed to stay in his pushchair).

We met up at Customer Service.  There were supposed to be 7 kids, but in the event, only 5 turned up.  There were two very bright children aged about 9 and 7, I think; a couple of small boys who were about 6 and 5, and my Boy, who is 4.  I'm not sure how well the wide range of age and ability worked - the co-ordinator, Stacey, said that normally you have a class so everybody is at about the same stage of reading and writing.  This lot ranged from total fluency, to my Boy who is only just beginning to read, and although he can write his name, it takes a very long time and much concentration!

We were taken up to a room in the back of the building, where the children were asked to put on hi-vis vests which had a picture of some vegetables or fruit on the front and "I'm learning where my food comes from" on the back.  They were then given paper hats to decorate and write their names on - the Boy did write his name, but also drew a picture of a carrot and a loaf of bread, both recognisable once you knew what they were.  He slightly threw everybody by insisting that black is his favourite colour, a theme he continued the rest of the day!

With their hats and high-vis vests on, the children were marched (literally) down to the main floor of the supermarket, and thus to the bakery department.  There, they discussed what things go into making bread, and marked them off on their worksheets (the three youngest needed help with this), and were given some dough to knead and play with.  "What", asked the eldest child, "was going to happen to the dough?"  and she was told that this particular batch would be used for animal food as they hadn't washed their hands before kneading it.

They had to wash their hands afterwards, and this took a bit of time as the dough was very sticky!  Meanwhile, the bakery manager had brought in some "Weirdoughs" for the children to taste - mini-doughnuts flavoured with bacon (surprisingly nice - I shared one with Boy Too, who enjoyed his half) and salt and vinegar.  I passed on that, but the Boy had two!  And a slice of "pizza bread" as the children christened the Mediterranean bread they were also invited to try.  That was delicious, and I looked for some afterwards to buy, but they had sold out.  Still, I shall look for it in our Tesco's.

Onwards, then, to the fruit and vegetable department, where between them they looked out for fruit and vegetables in all the colours of the rainbow, and the older ones were asked to look to see where they came from.

They also had their picture taken with Bananaman, who "happened" to be standing by the eponymous fruit. 

Then it was back off the shop floor, through the door marked "Staff only" ("You can only go there if you work there," as the Boy explained to his mother afterwards).  We looked at the huge warehouse and then there was a visit to the cold store, which was - cold!  The Boy covered himself with glory by answering, when asked what was kept in the fridge, "Yoghurt".  And, indeed, yoghurt, milk, butter and ham featured prominently in the trolleys.  Apparently the law requires these to be stored at no higher than 8C, but Tesco's internal regulations say they must be no higher than 5C.  In any case, the temperatures were nicely below that, so that was all right.

Back upstairs (Boy Too and I used the rather claustrophobic lift, which was too badly lit for my taste, but I wasn't going to carry both him and his pushchair upstairs!) to the conference room, where the really hands-on part of the day started.  First of all, the children - and the adults - were offered "Spooky Satsumas" ("They aren't spooky," said the Eldest Boy scornfully.  "They're just ordinary satsumas in a special box."  Poor Stacey had to agree that this was so!).  After this, they were given the opportunity to decorate, with more or less help from Stacey, a cupcake and a gingerbread man. 

After which, they were invited to taste goats' cheese and Cheddar, and compare the two, and then they were given a fruit kebab to eat.  With the various cries of "But I don't like...." whatever (raspberries and blackberries in The Boy's case) I felt faintly sorry for Stacey, but they mixed and matched.  We adults were given a kebab, too, and I shared my blueberries with Boy Too, who loves them.  I'd got him out of the pushchair, and he was happily sitting on the floor eating raisins and such largesse as people gave him! 

The final act of the day was for the children to make sandwiches to take home for their lunch - basically cheese and salad, though I don't think a single child used any of the lettuce that was provided!  The Boy said "I don't like salad!" but made his sandwich with tomato, cucumber and carrot, and later enjoyed it very much.  The sandwiches were bagged up to take home in a goody-bag which included a banana, raisins, some recipe sheets and some stickers.  And, of course, their worksheets and hats, and, best of all, a £20 Tesco voucher for the accompanying adults! 

I was glad to have gone on the "trail" myself, as I was interested, but had had my doubts as to whether the Boy was really old enough to enjoy it, but in the event he did, very much, and was very full of it afterwards.  I am not sure how much he will remember of what he learnt, but it was a fun outing for half-term.  All the same, I think it was as well we weren't a bigger group, as it was hard enough for the co-ordinator to cope with the different ages and abilities as it was. 

Monday, 27 October 2014

Paddy and Poppies

I'm covering two excursions from last week in one post as neither was really major enough to warrant a post of its own.

On Monday we went to the Durning Library in Kennington to hear Paddy Ashdown speak about the French Resistance in the Vercors, an area of France we know well from many years of going to the Mountain Cup in Villard-de-Lans.  It was an interesting talk, and one could buy his book for £5.00 less than the list price, so I did, for the Swan Whisperer's birthday or Christmas present, and had it signed.....

Then on Saturday we had been going to go to the London Forest Choir's concert in Chingford, but our daughter, who sings in it, was unwell and unable to sing, so we decided it was rather a long way to go just to hear FaurĂ©'s Requiem, which they are also singing in Central London on 9 November.  So instead, we thought we would go and see the poppies at the Tower of London.  In case you don't know (and who doesn't?), they are placing over 800,000 ceramic poppies in the moat of the Tower to commemorate those British servicemen who were killed in WW1.  It was absolutely packed out, but the poppies were lovely:

And I couldn't resist this photo of Tower Bridge in the late-afternoon sun:
On our way back to catch a bus on London Bridge we came across one of the mini-Boris buses that are a current art installation:

Sunday, 19 October 2014

An afternoon in the park

The Brockwell Park Miniature Railway runs on summer and autumn Sundays, but next Sunday will be its last hurrah for the year.  So as the family were busy next Sunday, I got a text asking whether we were free to go with them this afternoon.  I said yes, once I'd finished preaching and we wanted to go to the farmers' market, so we arranged to meet them at 12:30 outside Brixton Tube.

We wandered round the farmers' market, but Giggly Pig no longer seem to go there, and the only sausage stall sold cooked sausages rather than raw.  We did find some buffalo sausages, which were delicious (having had them for supper), but other than that it was disappointing.  I wanted a cauliflower, but they were £1 each, and I'd seen them for 60p in Walthamstow Market on Thursday.  And they don't really do street food, which the daughter had hoped for.  So we were hungry.  Wahaca has just opened in the old Railway Tavern, which has been derelict for some years and was Brady's before then, so we had a look there, but it seemed a bit expensive, so we thought we'd potter round the market.  At lunchtime on a Sunday, it was packed out, of course (and our favourite Colombian doesn't open on Sundays), but we found another Mexican place, Jaliscos, where between us we managed tacos, and a burrito for me, beer and pineapple juice.  All very delicious, but "regular" was too spicy for Boy Too, who was consoled with a fruit pouch instead.  I found that on my limit of spicy, too - I could have enjoyed a slightly higher level of spice, but was glad I hadn't, on balance.  But the pulled pork was delicious - I normally find it has so much sauce on it you can't taste the pork, but this one didn't.  The Boy enjoyed his, too.

We then headed for a bus, and got off at the Brockwell Lido gates of Brockwell Park.  In fact, we should have got off at the Herne Hill gates, as that's where the railway starts. The daughter and I found the miniature seats were really rather narrow, and we were a bit wedged in!

The Boy was allowed to hold the tickets and handed them very solemnly to the ticket collector!

After our ride, we decided to walk across the park to the children's playground, where the daughter remembered being taken to play as a small child.  We walked up to Brockwell Hall, now a cafĂ©, which was sore on the calves, I found, and the Boy grembled a bit, too.  Then, of course, it was downhill.  We went into the walled garden and saw that the roses were still glorious (and smelt glorious, too), and then walked down past the ponds - which are, in fact, the only part of the River Effra that is still above ground, to the playground, which is now rather more of an adventure playground than the swings-slides-climbing frames we remembered from thirty years ago.

Boy Too had fallen asleep by then, so his mother and I sat on a bench and reminisced while the Swan Whisperer and the Boy went off to explore.  They had great fun, and when Boy Too woke up he had a few goes on the slide and on the swings.  And there were tears when it was time to go, but not many.... I was tired by then, and so was the Boy, I think.  A 196 bus came first, so we saw them on to it, vigorous waving all round, and then a 37 which took us home to a much-needed cup of tea.