Tuesday, 21 July 2009

London or bust

Crikey. It's only the first Tuesday of the school hols and already we have done so much. Less surprisingly it is raining and I have long since given up shaking my fist at the sky and saying: "Why? Why? Why?" in anguished tones. Now I just open up the curtains at the crack of doom, look at the weather and say: "You bastard!"

Will the children of today remember long , hot summer days of childhood, as I do? Somehow I doubt it. Memories have to be made of other things not reliant on weather.

There was a film recently where the main character (was it Jim Carrey?) had to say 'yes' to every suggestion. I haven't seen the film, but the premise lodged in my mind, so when Kerry at Think Parents.Net/Digital Outlook asked me, as one of Disney's blogging Blu-ray ambassadors, to come up to London and be filmed for an internet advert extolling the virtues of the glorious Blu-ray, what else could I say, but 'yes'?

So we got on a train, all four of us, on Saturday at 7.33 am and headed for Paddington. H7 and R5 hadn't been on a train before. We broke their duck with three different types: Arriva slow but comfortable with a buffet trolley, Great Western fast thing with buffet car and Underground fast, mad, hot, squashed thing.

Brian and the girls headed off to find the hotel (Crowne Plaza) and then got back on the Tube again because two small girls had a whim to see where their Harrods bears were 'born'. There was a sale at Harrods. They had to come back out again to breathe and washed up on the steps of the V&A some time later.

Meanwhile I Undergrounded up north to Kentish Town to meet other Blu-ray bloggers: Gorgeous Jo, Handsome Dan and Lovely Linda and her Terrific Twins to sit on a squishy sofa in someone's living room and talk about the wonders of Blu-ray. Not difficult because we LOVE Blu-ray. (And if you've got an HD-ready TV and no Blu-ray player, you're MAD). Rachel, the hair and make-up artist, attempted to make a silk purse out of this sow's ear ready for the filming, then we sat and talked and then paused while Underground trains tunnelled underneath and a helicopter circled noisily overhead.

Handsome director said: "Can you say that good bit you were just saying again please?"

Me (thinks): Er, what was I saying?

It was a different way to spend a Saturday afternoon and was enormous fun.

Then it was back onto the squash of the Tube to the V&A to be reunited with the rest of my family and have a quick tour of the fashion exhibition.

H7 (in a loud voice): "Why are we looking at these? They're just dresses. Boring." Said in front of a heavily embroidered evening dress from 1775, just down from Diana's iconic beaded number.

The V&A provided refreshments in the form of brownies and cappuccino, then it was off on the Underground and back to the hotel.

"You're not going to believe this Mummy," said R5 skipping down the Embankment in the direction of the Hotel. She hadn't stayed in anything like this before.

It was pure Hotel Babylon of course. Which was why Brian and I were grinning so hilariously at the staff. I bet they knew why.

In the room the children discovered the mini bar while we discovered the prices. Then, after one of the children (OK, me) had removed the mini Glenfiddich and said how much! we discovered that it electronically counted what you had removed. Oops. We had to confess and blame it on the children.

H7: "Why blame it on me? It wasn't my fault!"

Then we hoofed across Blackfriars Bridge to Tate Modern for a whistlestop tour of my favourite paintings: Barnet Newmann's Adam and Eve (reunited at last); a Jackson Pollock; one of Monet's later Waterlilies; the full-sized version of the Rothko that we have a print of hanging on our stairs and finally The Snail by Matisse.

R5: "That isn't a snail Mummy."

Mummy: "Yes it is, see the way its shell curves."

R5, firmly: "It isn't a snail Mummy."

Dinner was back at the hotel in its Locatelli-satellite Italian restaurant. The food was utterly divine, from the complimentary Parmesan crisps to the tiramisu. The staff were adorably attentive and looked after the children brilliantly, bringing their ice-cream (Which flavour? Everything! No problem.) while we ate our entrees and polished off the Pinot Grigio.

By 8.30pm we were all asleep in our beds.

At midnight I awoke to an anguished gaze from H7 who was sharing a double bed with R5. The latter had her feet in H7's lap. We swapped.

At 2.30am R5 kicked me thoroughly on the bottom. I turned over to defend my posterior and she sneezed in my face. Twice. You swine. Swine flu? Eek!

Breakfast was a buffet. Anything you wanted to eat served up with a sea of coffee.

Bleary Mummy: "Any more coffee in the pot?"

Waitress (appearing as if by magic): "Do you need more coffee?"

I love hotels.

We then spent £30 on taxis taking the suitcase over to Paddington station. Are we mad? No. It's not as if we had to pay for anything else and it was convenient. And worth it for the sheer joy for H7 and R5 of travelling in a taxi for the first time.

We spent the morning in the Vue in Leicester Square watching the first showing in the UK of a Disney film, but I'm not allowed to mention it because it's embargoed until the end of the month. It was in 3D which we've never seen before and it was fantastic.

(To buy a similar fabulous spotty bag for London trips, picnics, on the beach etc, see Pipany.co.uk.)

We then walked to Paddington. Quite mad, yes, but we saw Trafalgar Square, the National Gallery (more Monets, toilets); called in on Liz and Phil (who were out) and then walked through hoards of Race for Lifers across Hyde Park. We hadn't planned to walk all the way, but the tube was full of the aforementioned runners and we'd had enough of the Tube after yesterday.

Then it was Paddington and, ultimately, home and we felt as if we'd been away for a week.


  1. Oh my god Mags, I was just deciding that I don't like you after all as the wicked green monster smote my anguished breast and then I spotted (see what I did there?) your tote bag! One of my babies went to London!

    Sounds as though you had an amazing time and I can't think of anyone who deserves it mpre....well, other than me that is! xx

  2. Sounds a great adventure. I love the way that kids are so wide eyed at what eventually becomes mundane - a taxi!

    Down in Wales next week and trying to convince the boys that trip to Aber will be just as exciting. Dyl in firm agreement as he's heard there is a steam train; teenagers more reluctant. We'll see.

  3. Pipany: Ah ha! You popped in with a comment just as I was installing a link to the Fabulous Bag! Of course I took it with me! I take it everywhere...

    Mark: Just don't tell anyone how crap the weather is here at the moment. Even you wouldn't want to be in Pembrokeshire today. Aber's lovely, of course (speaks the former Aber student) even in the rain. ;-)

  4. Gosh, that's a whole school holiday's worth of sights to see. What a wonderful memorable experience for the girls - and for you of course.

  5. Ooh, what a glam weekend! No wonder the girls enjoyed it, but it's always good to come back to west Wales (and the rain - can't 'see', you at all today). Glad your weekend was such a success.

  6. How fantaastic! What a load of stuff you did and I used to stay at the Crowne Plaza sometimes (when other people were paying of course) and isn't it fab? Was hoping for a picture of you looking glam at the interview!
    You realise now that you have probably produced two girls who will long to go to London for the rest of their childhood and adolesecene!
    Great post.

  7. Sounds like you had a lovely time.Brilliant picture of the girls in the taxi. They look so excited.

  8. What a wonderful day..you did so much!

  9. You did a lot more than us. we just seemed to drag overtired children from one tube station to another for a weekend. Plus the hotel told us that the kids weren't included for the meal so Kerry went with Jo and me and the children ate at McDonalds. Perhaps they just didn't like the cut of our jib.

    We did have a great time however. And I'm glad I found your blog as now I can stare at your smallholding with envy.

  10. Ah, I've heard about this already - yes, from the Lovely Linda! Lucky you.....would love bluray and would love HD TV - but ours is about twenty years old and shows no sign of breaking down (damn it!)......
    Glad you had such a fabulous time and Pip's bag looks gorgeous.

  11. Hee hee, gorgeous?? You are such a sweetie. And gutted Nic and I missed the film. We were up till midnight, but would still have made it had not the blackout blinds confused us into thinking it was still early. Snort. Mum's don't get many lie ins. That's my excuse.

    And you were fabulous dwahling, and I have to agree, the twins were amazing, very ool and collected. What a mad day,

    (And I thought the director was very handsome too.)

  12. Hello to you, from someone who has no children, and has no idea what blu ray is, but knows happiness and fresh excitement when she sees it in the faces of children, and in the words of the mother of those children.

    Your trip to London sounds absolutely fabulous. xo

  13. Gawd, I feel knackered just thinking about it. Still, it reminded me of my first trip to London, when my father announced we were going to look at Piccadilly Circus. Imagine how delighted I was to find, instead of elephants and clowns, a roundabout.

    Great blog by the way!

  14. @Mountaineer: It was a fantastic start to the holidays. Possibly too good...!
    @ChrisH - It was glam, but we didn't want to come home. We needed a few more days really to see other things. H&R really wanted to see Big Ben.
    @elizabethM - We loved the Crowne Plaza too. The girls will expect at least that next time we go to London!
    @Lampworkbeader - Nearly didn't get the camera out in time for that picture, but I'm glad I did.
    @ElizabethD - It was a lot to fit in, but worth it.
    @Dan - Shame you missed the meal. Mean hotel for not letting your kids in (we didn't ask!).
    @ExmoorJane - Our old TV wasn't broken either, but it was so ugly we sold it in a moment of utter madness! Then we had to buy a replacement and the rest is history...
    @Jo - You'll enjoy seeing the (embargoed) film even more with your children. Yippeekayay!
    @Frances - London was just the beginning. Next we all want to come to New York...!
    @Edward - Mine were relieved the 'Circus' was only a roundabout, having inherited their mother's terror of clowns!

  15. I'm exhausted just reading about it but also from the memories you've stirred when we took my niece to London for her 9th birthday. Cabs, tubes, buses, oh my aching feet and then China Town for food and finishing off with The Lion King at the Lyceum. Wonderful.xx


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