Monday, 15 August 2016

Grandparents' Rally

When we first bought our motor home, I joined the Caravan Club, largely because we can get decent insurance through them.  But they also run rallies on nearly every weekend throughout the year, and although we are not especially social people, we did book in to a couple, to see what they were like.  The first was back in February, in the wet and the mud, but this one was designed specially for grandparents with their grandchildren.

When we booked this, back in December last year, we didn't really realise how much Boy Too would have matured - well, one knew, but he was really only a baby last December, so we didn't invite him (next year, for sure), but we did invite the Boy.  I met him at the McDonald's outside Warren Street Station (I had arrived slightly earlier than them, so bought myself an OJ), and by the time we had got home, The Swan Whisperer (aka Granda) had more-or-less loaded the car and we were ready to set off.

Our first port of call was my parents', where the stuff that was in the car was transferred to the motor home, and after a sandwich lunch (and three games of "Snatch a bundle", my poor mother!) we set off to the venue at a place called Birdham, near Chichester.  The rally was held on a large meadow, with plenty of room for the children - there were about ten, ranging in age from about 12 to 18 months - to run about and play.  The Boy leapt out of the van even before we had parked up, and was seen learning to play croquet, although the hoops didn't come out again over the weekend.

As we weren't going to move, we set up our awning tent, with slightly more success than last time - for a start, we had tent pegs, although we needed strong elastic bands (I'll get some hair elastics) for the inner pegs.  It wouldn't do to sleep in, as there would be a massive draught under the van, and anyway, we still can't quite get it as it should be.  But it was good enough for a fine weekend, and we put our picnic table out there, and our chairs.  The Boy did demand to eat the final breakfast indoors - after all, he hasn't eaten at that table as often as we do! 

When we were set up, it was time to get supper, and we all demolished sausages, mash and beans, although none of us were quite sure of the leeks.... but they were okay.  Pudding was fresh mango, which was lovely.  Then the Boy disappeared again and was found playing football, until he discovered he'd lost his watch (a slap watch, and they do come out - I've lost one in my time).  Fortunately, someone found it for him, after which we confiscated it and he didn't have it back until the end of the weekend.  At nine o'clock it was all but dark, so I called him in, and helped him shower while Granda got his bed ready.  And after a story he snuggled down and we, too, went to bed, although for some reason I didn't sleep well.  Which meant that I heard the distant fireworks that signalled the end of Cowes Week!

On the Saturday, it was All Systems Go from the start.  The Boy did spend quite a lot of the early part of the morning rushing round playing football and bandits and goodness knows what else with his new-found friends, his joy only slightly marred by the fact that his (very cheap) water-pistol stopped working.  However, there were a couple of hours of craft activities arranged, including making Elmer the Elephant out of the tops of milk-cartons.  The Boy's actually won, although he himself didn't think it was the best:
They also made (delicious) mini-pizzas on muffin bases, topped with tomato puree and grated cheese, and then the toppings of your choice - peppers, frankfurter sausages, ham, pineapple, sweetcorn, etc. 

That was the foundation for lunch, which in our case also included bacon and avocado sandwiches (the Boy didn't want avocado, fair enough) and corn-on-the-cob.  Then technically there was nap time - and I certainly went to sleep - but then there was the Big Water Fight, and my menfolk signally failed to get into their swimming costumes and came back exhausted and rather cold

Then there were more games, including skittles, and a film for the children ("The Secret Life of Pets"), and a barbecue.... and it was 9:00 again before I could get a very dirty, very tired Boy indoors for a much-needed shower and bed!

These rallies always end with "Flag" at 11:00 on Sundays, when notices are given out, the organisers are thanked, prizes are distributed and the raffle is drawn, with the added excitement that all the children had been given two raffle tickets and were guaranteed two prizes - a big stuffed toy and a little one.  Then, of course, many of the main raffle prizes were toys, and the children ended up choosing them, too - my Boy chose a set of "Boom" bat and ball. 

And then back to my parents' for lunch, more Snatch-a-bundle, and even two games of chess with Great-Ba, the second of which, to everybody's amazement, ended in stalemate!  Ba is not one to allow a child to win, and was genuinely congratulatory.

We drove back to London along the sea, enjoying the ships in Shoreham Harbour, and only turning to the M23 when we had to - we didn't want to go into Brighton.  It was a slow old journey, but we got there in the end, and the Daughter produced omelettes all round as we were hungry.  And eventually home by 9:30 pm.

Thursday, 11 August 2016

The V&A Museum of Childhood, Bethnal Green

The Daughter had to go to her office today, so we arranged to pick up the Boys from there.  The big question was, what to do?  The South Kensington museums might have been a plan, but they are always jam-packed solid in the summer holidays.  But the Museum of Childhood is more off the beaten track, although we've all been there several times ("I went with my class when I was in Reception" said The Boy), and I found on their website that they had various activities for children during the morning.

We arrived at about 11:00, and our first port of call was the loos.  Boy Too has only recently learnt to do without nappies (he won't be three for another month, so really good going), and it is only really during the last week or so that it has been possible to take him out without several changes of clothing - even now, his mother sends him out with several changes and the collapsible potty, just in case!  But he is learning to go when he is taken, and we had no trouble at all with him today.  In fact, the only problem was that there were no towels in the ladies (The Boy had visited the gents with his grandfather), and he absolutely hates hand-driers and won't use them.  "Well," I said, "You'll just have to stay damp, then, or dry your hands on your trousers."

At 11:15, there was a talk advertised with "the opportunity to touch and feel the object".  Today it was teddy bears.  The talks were billed as suitable for 4 years old and up, and indeed Boy Too got bored so Granda took him off to do something else, while the Boy sat squarely on the rug and joined in to the fullest, discussing famous teddy-bears and remembering Winnie-the-Pooh's friends, and things like that.  The talk lasted 30 minutes, and then we were dismissed with a reminder that there would be story-time at noon.  The Boy wanted to go to that, so we looked round the museum for a quarter of an hour until it was time for the story, whereupon I took him back down to that space, and he sat, entranced, to listen to a story of how the tortoise got his shell....  The story was extremely well told, with no illustrations (except for an African drum) but lots of different voices, and getting the children to join in to remember which animals had tried to get the leopard away from his drum....

Once that was over, we went and had a look around the moving, electric and visual toys and then it was time for lunch.  We decided we'd rather go back to Liverpool Street Station to have that, as the food provided by the museum is really rather expensive for what it is.  So we got on a bus to Liverpool Street, with the Boy and me upstairs and Boy Too in his pushchair (which he has nearly outgrown) downstairs with Granda.  Boy Too dozed off during the journey, and slept through lunch at Pret a Manger, but woke up once we were in the train to Wood Street, and ate his sandwich and drank his juice very happily then!  He had also thoroughly enjoyed the museum, glued to some of the display cabinets.
Although much of the museum is geared to adults, there's plenty for children to do and enjoy there.  I commend it as a good morning's outing with Infant and early Junior ages.