London Transport Museum, clipper boat & more

…all with a wild three year old.

So today has definitely been one of the best days of my life. I get worried saying that. I’m not used to outright happiness. Happiness without the, ‘but’ or, ‘if only’. Happiness without a caveat? Unnerving. But it’s happened and it was unnervingly ace and I feel almost melancholy that it’s over already.

I start a new job soon and my daughter starts school in September so these long weeks of hanging like gal-pals is soon to be over (don’t get me started I’m an emotional mess already). I wanted to make the most of having childcare for my nine month old baby and treat my daughter to a weekday where it’s just the two of us. No buggies, no nappies, no crying baby.  Instagram had inspired me with some ideas of places we could visit and I checked the weather and it said ‘sun’ so we were game, set, match.

We hoped a train into London Waterloo. I wore a backpack stuffed with some colouring in and water but other than that we were pretty hands free. We stopped for a quick coffee and fresh fruit in Pret and then headed by tube to Embankment so that we could meander into Covent Garden and visit The London Transport Museum. I’ll be crushingly honest, I didn’t think it was all that great. It was fairly out dated in terms of exhibition design and functionality. With places like 360, Little Street, and Kidzania popping up all I guess expectations have been raised. I’d love to see them invest a bit more money and make some more interactive exhibitions. In fact it’s going to take way more than a ‘bit’, it’s going to need a complete overhaul. It could be super cool with all the stuff they could do but instead it was a lot of obsolete transport you could. sit. on. Really, that was a lot of the exhibition. Sitting on an old train. Sitting on an old tube. Sitting in an old horse drawn carriage with scary plastic figurines next to you. Because this post isn’t sponsored I don’t have to lie. It was £18 to get in and that gets you an un requested years membership. Honestly we won’t be back unless they go through a serious upgrade. They need to see what’s available to kids in Surrey and get on the band wagon of interactive and affordable fun.

Anyway, I had coffee coursing through my veins and my daughter to myself and frankly I’ve got a wild imagination so we had a pretty good time because I put in a lot of leg work. But we whizzed around in an hour and headed back out to Covent Garden to wander around some shops and grab some lunch.

I asked my daughter what she wanted to do next (dangerous tactic) , but actually her second option (after obviously wanting more cake) was that she wanted to hop a cab. Great idea! We hailed a cab who engaged us in fun conversation all the way down to Embankment Pier. Nothing like the old school charm of a long-serving male black cabbie.

Down at Embankment we found the pier for the MBNA Thames Clipper. I had no idea it was so damn easy to jump aboard. It’s basically a water bus service stopping all the way up and down the Thames. I lived in London ten years and I’d never used it. Contactless payment and hop aboard. That easy. Inside and outside seating and safe for kids to stand near the edge and watch the sights wiz by. The sun was shining, the wind was cool, London looked crazy glamorous. It was a real golden Mum-moment holding my daughter’s hand on that boat.

15-20 minutes later we disembarked at London Bridge. I didn’t have a game plan, but as we were walking off the boat I saw HMS Belfast and asked my  daughter if she wanted to have a look around. Flash forward ten minutes and we were strolling around the vessel that took part in D-Day. I don’t expect my three year old daughter to understand the context so we took it with a pinch of salt and just went exploring. In one of the gun towers they have some videos and a little reenactments where a bit of the floor rattles and there’s fake smoke. It was quite exhilarating and I was impressed my daughter was more thrilled and less terrified than I had expected.

We climbed up as high as we could on the warship and enjoyed the step ladders and great panoramic views of London, and we also went down below and had a look at the kitchens, the dentist, the baker and where they slept. I’m not big into history but it’s always awesome to look around actual historical artefacts on this level. It’s enormous and powerful and imposing. It was getting on in the day though and it was time to make a move home. We slowly made our way off the ship and stopped in at Tom’s kitchen which is right outside the boat and sells ridiculous cakes and then we hailed another cab to Waterloo. In Waterloo I treated Lumen to a book from Foyles book shop and a kid’s magazine from WHSmiths to entertain her on the way back home. Just as well as the train was packed full of commuters.

As a Mum most of my parenting is tied up in disciplining, teaching handwriting, negotiating, making meals and tidying up. Most of the day I’m saying ‘No’ or figuring out how I can divert a child’s attention so that I don’t have to say ‘No’. It is blessed relief to have a day like this, where I can be more myself and more relaxed. That we can have a vague plan but we have flexibility. In our day to day life we’re usually planned within a an inch of everything, running to swimming or dashing home for baby’s nap time. To have a day like this? Totally joyful.

I didn’t know whether Lumen would enjoy the things we took her too but I remember clearly as a kid not caring so much about where we went but caring about what sort of mood Mum and Dad would be in. I try and keep this in my mind as we go out for these days. That yes she can have more cake than normal. Yes I have time to stop and figure out what the problem is behind some moan or other. Yes I have time for cuddles and humour and holding hands. I know motherhood should be filled with these things on a daily basis but it’s hard to be fully present when you’re mentally writing a shopping list of staring over a child’s shoulder to the ever present mess that you will need to be cleaning later.

Stepping out of the routine and embracing something new is all today was about for us. Undivided attention. To know that I can be cool and laid back given the right circumstance, to be reminded how cool and interested my daughter is in the world. That conversations can start with asking a three year old ‘and where shall we go next?’….




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