Middleburgh:London One Week On
Safely back, jet lag over - time to reflect on this years London trip ...
In addition to checking up on Mum, this year we reintroduced her youngest grandson. The last time she met him was 2 years ago when he was less than 1 year old. Then as now, the concern was whether it would be the last opportunity for her to see him. Fortunately not and I suspect based on this last visit that mum is good for another 5 years at least. Before we left a set of formal photos were requested (well... demanded!!) so I think this aspect of the visit can be deemed a sucess.
#1 son came over from Dublin to join us and visit with his nan which both enriched and moderated our visit. For the first time he met his younger half brother. They got on famously which frankly was a relief, although I wish that he hadn't introduced junior to the concept of simulating car crashes with his toys. Still we were fortunate in that the day after we came back to HK that there was a car, in a garage we pass on walkies, with it's front end spectacularly smashed in. It became a lesson in the "consequences" of crashing car and and the economic virtues of being able to fix up your car yourself. ( just setting the scene for when he is 18 and wants a "real" car)
In order not to overwhelm mum, we had had decided to take jamie to some key London sites including London Zoo. If I am truthful I was a little dissapointed. The bigger animals that I remember from my youth like elephants; rhinos and hippopotomi are no longer at Regents Park. I assume they have been moved to Whipsnade where there a more appropriate environment. Still the objective of bringing Jamie to a zoo with a wider selection of animals than those at the HK Park and Ocean Park was met. As he gets older we still have the option of taking him to the Shenzhen Safari Park
or indeed to the Zoo in Singapore
We did consider going to either the Natural History Museum (to catch the the dinos) or to the British Museum In the event we went to neither.
Instead we took #3 down to the London Transport Museum in Covent Garden. Coincidently we had recently taken #3 to the HK Transport Museum in Tai Po Market a couple of weeks previous. Personally I thought Tai Po, if more limited, was more interesting, but then I grew up with London Transport and had visited the Museum years previously when it was out at Clapham with a school friend who subsequently became the "Head of Strategy & Business Development, Surface Transport, Transport for London" (like the title Kieth !!). Jamie for his part wasn't impressed with the 3rd floor gallery (river boat men and omnibuses) in LT museum - he found the audio too noisy. (it scared him!!) On the other hand He enjoyed the trains and buses and the hands-on models but he was frustrated that the couldn't get into the London Taxi (which was locked). You would have thought that they could have orgainsed the exhibit to allow kids to sit in an iconic London taxi?
I had had a discussion with a Scottish colleague before leaving for UK about whether we should do something to celebrate the Royal Wedding when I got back. I committed to secure if possible some "wedding tat" - you know cheap and tasteless stuff like celebratory tea towls, mugs , bunting etc. In this I failed dismally!! Although mum lives in East London where you might expect a surfit of such tat, the area she lives in is a very refined "village' at the toe of Epping Forest, the sort of place that people in Stanmore would aspire to move to. With the exception of a souvenier magazine in a local news agent which displayed bunting outside for one day there was no sign of an imminent Royal wedding. The bunting either got stolen overnight (possibly to order because of a local bunting shortage) or was ripped down by vigalantes who deemed it out of keeping with local standards. To put this in context a Pie, Eel and Mash shop which had opened next door to news agents against local residents objections that it lowered the tone of the neighbour was torched last year (comparisons may be drawn with locations depicted in the TV series Midsommer Murders
As it happens when we went to Covent Garden we were early and we passed a shop on the Strand selling suitable "tat" whilst looking for somewhwere for breakfast. Unfortunately it was closed and after we finished at the museum I didn't dare go back. This was because I had discovered that there was also a big camping shop on the route back but I was subject to a domestic ban on visiting camping shops (another story... another day ...)
Although not an explicit visit objective, we took time out to walk Jamie through Epping Forest and visit some of the nearby lakes. These are places I grew up with as a kid which I enjoyed and which ultimately led to my choices in university studies. Whilst we take Jamie on hikes through HK country Parks near reservoirs they are similar but qualitatively different. Basically HK is jungle with snakes ; Epping Forest is leafy suburban glens with gangland bodies. Jamie enjoyed looking at the swans and ducks, chasing the pigeons, looking for frogs and tadpoles (a bit early), romping through the grass etc. We didn't have a metal detector so we couldn't look for rings and the like ... but I explained to him (for when he comes next year ) that "a ring may be connected to a ring finger.... (the finger may be connected to a hand, and the hand may be commected to an arm etc)