Laaaahndaaaan

Warning: this post goes into levels of detail that you really may not be interested in. It *might* be a bit like sitting through Aunty Beryl’s holiday slide reel. It really might be. So just putting it out there right from the get-go, you don’t need to sit through all of this unless you love sitting through holiday talks. Unless of course you are Anthea, Richard or my Dad. You three have to read every single word. xxxx

I am very fond of London. Like so many other Kiwis I did my OE there and though that was a lifetime ago (the early years of the last decade!) my memories of the city are forever keen. My wonderful half brother Andrew lives there as does Marcus’ cousin Alastair. And a hotch potch of friends from various times and places. So we’ve been wanting to get down to London since we arrived, and a couple of weekends ago, we finally bundled ourselves, and our excitement, onto the train and headed south.

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We stayed at Alastair’s place, which has a rather good view of the Thames Barrier from his deck. They’ve a surreal, rather sci-fi quality to them. Awaking in the morning, it was clear that we weren’t in Lancashire anymore.

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We wanted to hit a great number of the big sights whilst we were down so we started early. And promptly got to Saint Paul’s Cathedral before it had even opened.  Oh. Beginners mistake.

The early bird does not always catch the worm it would seem.

 

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So we sat and waited a while. Albie got hungry so he started to eat a slice of cold pizza that we’d packed. Nothing says I’m-casually-waiting-on-the-steps-of St-Pauls-Cathedral-for-it-to-open like a piece of cold pizza right? To me, Albie kind of looked like he might have been out clubbing all night and that he’d stopped on the steps for a piece of greasy pizza as a general pick-me-up before catching a tube home.

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Anyway, after the pizza, and a little more waiting, Albie wondered if perhaps we needed to knock.

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His little knuckles rapping on that great big door. Oh my cuteness! I want to tell you that the doors then swung open with heraldic abandon, but no. About ten minutes later a much smaller door, to the left of this photo, opened rather unassumingly for the day.

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The Thames. Millennium Bridge. The Tate Modern. These places always made my soul sing Happy. And coming back to them so many years later with my family, with our two sons safely in tow? Well – lets just say it felt good.

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Albie was as awesome as any three year old boy can ever be expected to be in a major art gallery. We took a couple of the galleries in with Albie safely ensconced on Marcus’ shoulders, chatting, pointing, talking about what we saw. But when we wanted to stop and soak in something for any real amount of time, we unapologetically pulled the ipad out for him. I thought we were total winners.

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Now though I look at this photo and see a boy more interested in his alphabet app than the amazing paintings that surround him. And that seems a bit of a shame! But then, realistically, colour field painting is just a little outside of Albie’s interests at the moment. And you gotta have some moments for yourself, right? Right? I suppose I am kind of not sure. What do you think?

Nick, a dear old friend, came and joined us at the Tate and afterwards we walked along the Thames to Borough Market for lunch and on to Tower Bridge. It was super hectic at the market, but we found some delicious food and some equally fabulous coffee. Then found a suitably nice gutter in which to eat it.

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There are many activities happening in the UK at the moment to commemorate 100 years since the beginning of World War One. At the Tower of London ceramic artist, Paul Cummins, has made 888,246 individual red ceramic poppies – each one representing a British soldier that died. They are being placed around the tower, in a work entitled Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red .The scale is hard to communicate but the last one won’t be placed until November. Check out this video if you want to see the creation of the installation.

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It’s very moving to see all the soldiers lives represented like that. Such unfathomable loss.

I told Albie the bare bones of what the installation meant. There was a war and lots of people died and to remember them they have planted a red poppy for every soldier who died. Albie was quiet for a while and then he asked me to tell him again what I had said. I repeated it. He was quiet again, looking silently through the barrier at the flowers.

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“Mummy, people shouldn’t fight with each other.” he said solemnly.

“That’s true, Albie.”

Silence.

” Mummy……” his voice trailed off.

He had a furrowed brow and a pensive face.

“Mummy……. why didn’t Daddy stop the war?”

Possibly the sweetest thing Albie has said. I love how in his world, his Dad can solve All Things.

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We then took the sunshine for what it was worth, it was gloriously warm, and simply went to St James’ Park and lolled on the grass for a few hours.

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And then the boys got tired and it was time to go home so we grabbed some overpriced but very yummy sushi got back on the tube just as the end of day rush happens and sardined ourselves in the underground with countless suits on their way home and it was all a bit claustrophobic, sticky and squishy but the less said the better. 

It was an absolutely fabulous day.

And the rest of our time there was equally impressive. We drank good coffee. The North is good at many things, but  coffee is not one of them. After a very pleasing cup we went to The Art of the Brick, a Lego Exhibition. As expected Albie did his Happy Dance outside. Unfortunately the exhibition went a little over Albie’s head and well under ours. It was rather hot and filled to the gunnels with marauding kids. We escaped into the drizzle and then to a food market on Brick Lane.

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We took the tube and checked into a room above a pub in West London. On the tube Albie and Andrew chatted away like old chums. I won’t tell you Andrew’s story, because it is his story and not mine. Suffice to say, in the sixties, my Mum gave her baby up for adoption and by the time Andrew was back in our lives, Mum had passed on. So seeing Andrew and Albie together shooting the breeze like this made my heart swell and think of her. Of how she didn’t get to know these two wonderful people – her son and her grandson – and how life can be cruel like that.

But then look at this moment will you! It can equally be oh-so-kind.

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We had a few drinks and eats with those that could make it – caught up a little on the years between. The kids were a bit stretched by this stage and we ended up all turning in very early. But staying in a room above a pub, with the baby monitor on whilst they sleep has great merit. Definitely an idea worth pursuing again!

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And the day after that – the sun shone again. We went to the Natural History Museum to show Albie some real dinosaur skeletons. Albie was terrifically excited and scared all at once.

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Marcus’ sister Andrea, her husband Paul and their son Caleb came on the train and joined us – just one week before she was due – which was spectacularly impressive form. And we found an Albertosaurus – a smaller, more compact version of the Tyrannosaurus Rex which seemed very apt for our wee fighter.

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The sunshine was too lovely not to bask in, so again we took to the park, this time to the Serpentine in Hyde Park. We spent ample time trying to locate what ended up being a very overpriced packed lunch, and then went to the Diana Memorial Fountain to enjoy it. Some feat of engineering, the water runs rapidly in a circle on the ground. It’s a magnet for children, so despite the chilling temperature, kids gravitated to playing in it. It was only a matter of minutes before Albie’s shoes, socks and trousers were off and he was in it.
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And then a stroll back towards Kensington, took us past The Albert Memorial, which memorialised royalty from quite a different age in quite the different way. And more autumn leaves. Albie and Caleb running after each other (they make lovely chums), chilled air, an unhurried meander.

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That evening we took the train back home. Albie stayed awake for far too long, and then passed out rather quickly in the midst of eating a carrot.

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