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!