Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The Last Hurrah!

Last Tuesday was the last day of Sam being at home before he started school. I wanted to make it a special day and thanks to a friend who looked after Ava for the day I was able to take him out and about anywhere I wanted.

We started off getting the underground to North Greenwich, going via Stratford was interesting - I couldn't work out why there were so many people on the train, then I remembered that Westfield was opening that day! At North Greenwich we caught a Thames Clipper boat and headed towards the London Eye. At first Sam said he didn't want to go on a boat but as soon as he saw it he was really excited. It was a great journey and I can highly recommend it. It costs around £5 (depending on if you have an Oyster card or a travelcard or not) and takes you past lots of interesting sights. There is even a Costa Coffee on board!

We got off the boat at the London Eye and walked down to Giraffe which is one of Sam's favourite restaurants just because they give kids little plastic giraffes with their meal. I think the food is nice but is overpriced. When we got their it wasn't very busy but they seated us in a dark corner with no view out of the windows so I moved us to one of the other empty seats (I find the staff can be a bit moody too). Sam had a burger and an apple juice and I had a meze plate and a cranberry juice (another complaint is they don't offer ice in their soft drinks)

After we'd filled our boots we walked down the South Bank and went to Namco which is an indoor arcade and games place in County Hall. I'd seen they had a small bowling alley and Sam loves playing bowling on the Wii so I knew he'd enjoy it. It was £3 per person per game and the best thing is you don't have to wear those horrid bowling shoes! Obviously I won but I cheered Sam up with a few arcade games where you win tickets which we swapped for a bag of sweets.

Next on our journey was the bit I'd been looking forward to - The Ice Cream Parlour at Fortnum and Masons! We took the tube to Green Park and dashed into Fortnums to avoid the rain that had just started. We found the Parlour Restaurant and were presented with a mouthwatering menu of ice creams and desserts. Sam decided to go for a banana split from the childrens menu and I went for a Rota Plaustri which was three scoops of ice cream (chocolate, rocky road style and strawberry cheesecake) it came with a small jug of melted dark chocolate too. The Weightwatchers points for that day were used up in one go! The funniest thing was when Sam turned to me and said "there are a lot of old people in here mummy" :o) After the ice cream we had a look around the food halls and drooled over the vast array of lovely (and very expensive) things.

Our final port of call was Hamleys where Sam got to choose a toy which he had earned from a reward chart we'd been using over the summer. He went for a couple of Cars 2 toys and I avoided the hard sell from one of the staff telling him to put stuff on his christmas list and then saying to me "it's only £50 mummy" - "yeah only......"

We had a fabulous day and it was so nice to spend time with him and not have to worry about travelling about with a pushchair. It was a great end to a great summer and the next day we waved him off to school and managed not to blub....... just

Monday, 5 September 2011

Ee by gum

So last week the children and I travelled "oop north" to visit my family for a few days.

I prefer to go by train as it's faster and cheaper, although it does mean once we get there I regress to a teenager and need my mum and dad to drive me around! Only problem with the train is I pretty much always have some sort of delay on one of the journeys. This time was no different, as we got to Euston to catch the 11:40 to Wilmslow all trains were cancelled due to a broken down train near Milton Keynes (why is it the problem always in the Milton Keynes area?) After waiting for an hour I realised we weren't going anywhere so husband to the rescue and we got on the bus to his work in Soho where we de-camped for a while then went out to Wagamamas for some lunch. By the time we got back the trains were running so we headed back to Euston and managed to get on a train at 3:30. For once the train was empty - it was great! Sam had lots of seats to choose from and I didn't worry about Ava disturbing anyone. The staff were really helpful and one of them even offered to get me something from the on board cafe as I was feeding Ava.

Finally on our way......

We spent 4 days with my mum and dad, as usual rushing around trying to fit everyone in. We had our annual visit to Brookside Garden Centre to ride on the miniature railway and have a nice lunch in the italian cafe on site. The railway has been there since I was a teenager (or maybe younger, I don't ever remember going on it though). Sam loves it - and actually so do I!

The next day I met with an old friend in Manchester and her posse of three children. We had a picnic by the canal in Castlefield and then headed to the Museum of Science and Industry who were holding a Thomas the Tank Engine day. I've been to a few Thomas days in various railways and I have to say this wasn't one of the best (well not for the money £8 for Sam and £10 (!!) for me). Nevertheless it was lovely to catch up with Nicola and the kids had a good time.

On the Friday Mum and Dad took us to the Wirral to a place call Thurstaston. I have never been round there before and thought it was really lovely. We had a walk along the beach and my Dad and Sam built a sandcastle and played football.

Then we came across an unassuming little cafe which we thought would just do the basic sandwich fodder. We were pleasantly surprised when we ordered a mixed meze and a ploughmans to find all sorts of lovely food being served. I had a lovely plate of cheese and meat with nice crusty bread (Weightwatchers went out of the window that day). In the evening my oldest friend Rachel came over with her two girls, her eldest is starting high school today - it doesn't seem like five minutes since she was born!

On our last day before we left my brother, his wife and their 3 month old son came round for breakfast. It was lovely to see them and have all the cousins together. Then it was time to head back to the big smoke. Another quiet train and my lovely husband picked us up from Euston so we didn't have to battle the underground.

I love living in London but I will always be a proud northerner!

I do like to be beside the seaside

We've had a couple of weeks away in opposite sides of the country recently.

Firstly we spent a week in a caravan in Walton on the Naze in Essex. We stayed at the Naze Marine park in a caravan that belongs to friends of ours. I love caravans and infact one night we realised that the caravan we were in was actually better than our house! It had three bedrooms which meant Ava had her own room and the living room was bigger than ours and had more sofa space. I was considering squatters rights and moving in.

Walton on the Naze is just the right amount of tackiness without being too much like Blackpool. It's got a lovely beach with some very cute beach huts and a pier that is great if you have children (not too expensive or busy).

We had some pretty good weather and were joined for a couple of days by my mum and dad and then by my mother in law and her parents.

Sam was in his element and was able to go swimming every day and go to the club at night. We spent most nights being entertained by X Factor rejects dressed as giant rabbits or singing 90's rock tunes. All around you could see harrassed parents with their cheap cocktails and bottles of pinot grigio grinning and bearing it for their kids (obviously the pinot makes things a bit easier).

We were there during the carnival which consisted of a fairground set up on the local green and a rather surreal parade along the main street.

We had a great time, sometimes a good old fashioned british seaside holiday is what you need. No airport stress, no unbearable heat and a good old knees up.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Riots and Rabbits

Well this week has been a bit quiet to be honest. What with everything going on in London and having had a busy weekend on Monday and Tuesday we stayed at home and set up camp in the front room.

I've also been suffering this week with lack of sleep and a bit of an upset stomach, but we managed one day out.

I decided to go to Mudchute Farm, quite a big farm on the Isle of Dogs. As usual I checked the website first to see what it looked like and how to get there. They tell you to go to Crossharbour as this is the easiest station to access the entrance to the park and farm. What they don't tell you is that it isn't the easiest access if you have a buggy or wheelchair. The entrance had around 10 steps going up to it and when I got to the top there was a gate that obviously was there to stop animals escaping but wasn't big enough to fit a buggy through (unless it folded up). One of the down sides to travelling around on your own with children is you don't have that second pair of hands, it was impossible for me to fold up the buggy and hold Ava so I decided to look for another entrance. Ten minutes walk later we found another entrance - directly opposite Mudchute station! I could have stayed on the train and saved myself the hassle. That entrance was OK, but then I encountered another problem - the path leading to the farm was sand - pretty difficult to push a buggy on - gah!

When we got to the farm I was a bit disappointed, yes it is free but it just felt a bit run down. I needed to feed Ava so we went to the cafe and got a drink. Now, I know it was on a farm but the amount of flies that were in the cafe were unbearable. All over the serving counter and swarming round whilst we were sat having a drink. I've been to quite a few farms and never had this before. I also had to wait ages to be served whilst the blokes in the kitchen ignored me.

Even the animals are trying to escape

We left the farm and went off to find the play park they mention on the website. I have lived in London for about 15 years and I don't think I've ever felt particularly nervous anywhere during the day. But this park made me feel uncomfortable - maybe this was partly to do with what's been happening around here this week, I don't know but I do know I had to get Sam to leave pretty quick as I just didn't want to be there.

So all in all a bit of a disappointing trip out. But Sam got to ride on his beloved trains.......

Friday, 5 August 2011

Trams, trains and all that

Today was a momentous day in the Jennings household - Sam had been pestering to go on a tram for ages and one of his rewards on his reward chart is a tram ride. Last week he earned this reward so today we set off for Wimbledon to ride on the tram to Croydon.

It was a bit of a mammoth journey. Starting at Queens Road we headed to Barking and then got the District Line to Wimbledon. It would have taken less time to get the train up to Cheshire to visit my family! We had a bit of a pit stop in Wimbledon to have a quick look round the shops then to eat our picnic. Using the magic that is Google maps on my IPhone I saw there was a small park nearby so we ventured off to find it. Sometimes it is nice to not know where you are going and you come across pretty little places like South Park Gardens. It was a cute little park, complete with its own "Bar", seen here on the right of the picture which was a tiny little kiosk selling drinks and snacks.

A well earned drink after a long journey

Picnic done we headed back to the station and got on the tram to West Croydon. Boy was that an experience. I thought travelling by bus in Walthamstow was strange........ I had only ever heard bad things about Croydon, but wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt as living in Walthamstow I am used to hearing negative opinions about a place that is actually really nice. However, it was as awful as I had heard and we beat a hasty retreat to the train station and made our way home via Canada Water and Stratford.

If Sam ever asks to go on a tram again I will take him up to Manchester!

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Sea Men and Mad Women

The things we do for our children...... So on the wettest day this week I had to go out, well i didn't have to but for a couple of weeks I'd been telling Sam about an event near Russell Square that involved the Octonauts. For those of you that don't know Octonauts are a series of books that have been made into a show on CBeebies. They feature a load of weird animals come sailors that investigate the goings on in the ocean.

I really didn't fancy going out today because it was pouring down but I knew Sam would be really upset if we didn't go. So we donned our (not so) waterproof coats and set off for the station (I drove, didn't fancy the walk there today). We made our way to Kings Cross and then walked to The Brunswick Centre which is a shopping centre/housing complex. We got absolutely soaked and I got a bit lost, by the time we got there I looked like Crystal Tips and felt like a drowned rat.

The event was really good, not too busy (and free!). A performer (better than the pirate one in the museum last week) got the children to tell him all about Octonauts and read one of the books, there were colouring activities and at the end Captain Barnacles appeared. There was then an opportunity for the children to have their photo taken, however Sam obviously takes after me as he didn't want to do it. We were given a goody bag with a free book and some masks and then headed out to see what the weather had in store for us. At the exit they were giving the mums 3 free chick-lit books which was an added bonus!

As it was lunch time I decided to treat Sam to a McDonalds (or Old McDonalds as he calls it). We went to the one at Kings Cross but first I had to stop to get some money from a cash machine. Probably a mistake in Kings Cross as within seconds a mad old lady had appeared and was trying to get money out of one of the machines with no cash card. She then decided to come up alongside me and ask me if I had managed to get money, being an honorary Londoner I ignored her then asked her to move away. Seeing Sam take the money and hand it to me she made some comment about "ooh children with money" I made a hasty retreat away from her and her long dirty toenails and bright pink lipstick.

After filling ourselves up with Happy Meals we headed home. There was obviously something in the air today as a woman got on at Hackney Downs and proceeded to tell me how irresponsible I was for leaving the pram with Ava in by the door. I tried to explain that the door she was by was on the opposite side of the platform for the first couple of stops and when she wouldn't listen I told her to mind her own business (I was sat right next to the pram btw).

One of my terribly neglected children.....

Was glad to get home and have a nice cup of tea today.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

The Only Way is Essex

We ventured out into deepest darkest Essex to visit friends today. I'm not a very keen driver, especially when a journey requires me to drive on roads bigger than a single carriageway. But I really wanted to meet up with my friends and visit Maldon where one of them has just moved so I was very brave and we headed out onto the A12! It wasn't as bad as I had feared and thank goodness we've recently had our air conditioning fixed in the car.

We met at my friends house and then started out on a trek, sorry, walk ;o) to Promenade Park. The plan was to take the kids (8 in total) to the splash park but when we got there it was rammed. Not surprising really considering it's the school holidays and was it was so hot yesterday. We ummed and ahhed for a bit but in the end decided not to bother as we were worried we wouldn't be able to keep track of the younger ones. Also the queue just for the wristbands was huge. Instead we found a shady spot under a tree overlooking the estuary and had our picnic. After a brief walk around the park we headed back to my friends house via Morrisons (accompanied by lots of whinging) and bought the whingers water pistols and bubble wands and dispatched them into the garden while we sat inside and cooled off with ice creams.

A very busy splash park.............

Keeping cool


Sam crashed out in the car on the way home and every now and again would fall onto my gear changing arm and dribble a bit. A good day was had by all and I hope to go back again soon - the only shame is the splash park is only open during school holidays or at weekends so i can't imagine it ever being quiet.......