Monday, September 5, 2011

10 a.m. Downshire Hill

Not sure how this happened. I just heard the smash and the breaking glass!
The woman talking to the policeman is the driver.
She opened the door and got out of the car immediately.
Very little damage to her car.
Police and fire on the scene, but no danger appears.
They smashed open the window to check the place.

Not just another day!

Monday, August 22, 2011

How I Spent My Summer

They have left, Megan and Barnz and Bibs and Bobs and Trixie, after spending 6 weeks here in London with us. We all had a wonderful time, and my London now includes a whole new city devoted to entertaining children who are under 5 years old. 
Here is a selection of photos of what we did this summer

One day it is the Fourth of July Parade in Hingham Massachusetts
And the next day your car seats are strapped into an airplane

Unless you are lucky enough to snag a bulkhead bassinet
And then you find yourself living in a flat in London
Where Daddy can enjoy real British food
And you can meet your Grandma Diana for the first time
Where you travel by train and bus and Tube to museums
Bobs on the Cubist Slide at the Tate Modern
Bibs at the British Museum
Bobs joining The Tiger Who Came to Tea at the V&A's Museum of Childhood exhibition
 on the life and career of Judith Kerr who is best known in the States for her book When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit which recounts her family's escape from Germany in the 1930s
In England she is best known for The Tiger Who Came to Tea and for Mog, a series of stories about the family cat Mog who gets into trouble, but always saves the day.  Dressing up in Mog costumes,  while Bibs holds tight to Pink Rabbit
And there were lots of places to play including football with the Little Kickers

And lots of playgrounds including Coram Fields where the goats run free
Coram Fields is the site of the 18th century Foundling Hospital founded by Captain Coram to take in children whose parents could not afford to care for them. The remaining building is now the Foundling Museum. The grounds are used for the playground and other social service organisations serving children.
Playing with Ann Read's granddaughter Chloe at Golders Hill Park Toddler's Playground

Trixie enjoying her day at Golders Hill too

The Peggy Jay Centre on Hampstead Heath was  the best place ever
 for Under 5's to have fun
The wonderful Peggy Jay Centre pavement where vehicles of all sorts were available for testing 

  Nearby was a big kid playground that had a wading pool for the occasional days when the temperature was warm enough not to wear a sweater. Megan and Barnz were happy to miss the lengthy hot and humid spells in the US while here. Barnz and Bobs are wading on a day when we forgot swimsuits.

Even the South Bank Summer Festival "Beach" offered sand digging for Bobs who never
 passed up a sand pit or a puddle on offer. Bobs's first theatrical experience, Archaeology: A Worm's Story at the Polka Theatre for children included digging in sand for the second act. He was enthralled according to Megan who accompanied him. Bibs and I went to a very English panto-style revue based on Quentin Blake characters at the same time. They also saw the Polka Theatre's adaptation of Lauren Child's Charlie and Lola during the day they spent at Lollibop, the Festival for Under-8's at Regents Park. English children are immersed in stage productions from birth.

Until late July when the school term ended, Hampstead's Community Centre  offered a drop-in morning playtime for  toddlers with a weekly calendar of music, art, and cooking activities, 4 days a week for a minimum fee. Lots and lots of toys on hand and a morning snack too.
The Kentish Town Farm, celebrating its 40th Anniversary next year, is a 30 minute walk for us.
 Bobs admiring a very big pig. The Kentish Town Farm, is located in railroad rights-of-way where several lines come together. For Bobs, the trip to the farm meant looking at animals while watching trains whizz past. Two for the price of one (except it's all free).
In our time at home we all fell in love with the BBC's children's show Octonauts, on the TV screen behind Bobs. The Octonaut team live in the underwater Octopod saving creatures in trouble and teaching us all about the ocean environment and the plants and animals who live there.
Bobs was inspired to draw a whale
with excellent results. Whatever there is to say against TV for children,  it's hard to argue that the Aardman Animation Timmy Time cartoons, and Lauren Child's Charlie and Lola episodes  aren't wonderful entertainment. And when you add in characters like Postman Pat and Chuggington the Train and Madeleine, it's hard to turn the set off. And then there is Baby TV, which seems to be French, or Swiss, or Belgian in production. There is nothing more soporific than 15 minutes in front of Baby TV. The cult book Go the F--- to Sleep might be unnecessary if everyone had access to Baby TV!
The joys of TV watching were interspersed with music
and cooking
and reading

and with learning to crawl
and finding new places to settle
and some cuddling
We also had special days. The Lewisham People's Fair with Aunt Susan and Uncle Cato
 and awesome butterfly face painting,
A pretty big Ferris Wheel
And a carousel that made Bobs happy
Trixie however had her reservations about fun in which she cannot partake 
On a day when Megan was in bed with a flu, Bob and I drove Bibs and Bobs to Bekonscot Model Village, a place I have always wanted to see, but it never seemed quite right without children along. The village is huge and recreates real and idealised sites of Britain, and a few fantastic ones including the fields of dinosaurs and hippos grazing on our green and pleasant pastures.
There were model trains traveling through the town to watch for

And a child size train to ride around the village.
A definite must see for every return trip by the children 

And the most special day of all was Bib's 4th Birthday.
Oh Joy! The Birthday Bunny found her in London after all!
And was quite generous too
Wearing her favourite present, a dress hand-smocked by Megan
with mermaids of Megan's own design

We took off on a special outing to Kensington Gardens
for a ride on the Carousel
and a visit to the Princess Diana Playground
Followed by a butterfly birthday cake from Marks & Spencer at home 
Two days later there were even more and even better cakes, with glitter and fairies and flowers,
 made by Uncle Cato's mother who generously hosted a birthday party for Lavinia
 for the extended Wilkes family, Barnz's mother's family, to attend.
And where there were even more presents including this beautiful alphabet poster designed by Uncle Andy Tuohy (and available for sale at the best art museums in southeast England. And any Scouser should look for his Liverpool Alphabet poster, and other goods, available at the Tate Liverpool in September.)
Great Grandma Janet was able to wish her first great-grandchild a Happy Birthday in person
And Trixie met Great-Grandma Janet, Aunt Libby and Uncle Andy,
and Uncle Bernard for the first time.
The following day, Bib's Birthday celebration continued with a special overnight trip to Paris.  She is a huge fan of the Madeleine video series, and was hoping to attend Miss Clavell's school while in Paris, so she donned a dress similar to the one Madeleine wears and set off very early with Mommy and Daddy and Dolly.
Waiting for the Eurostar at St Pancras
One minute you are on the Eurostar writing in your Moleskin Diary
and 2 hours and 20 minutes later you are in a café in Paris
Now to find Madeleine and Miss Clavell's school
At Notre Dame?
At the Opera?
Along the Seine?
At the Louvre?
A message has arrived. The school is closed for the summer holiday,
 and Miss Clavell has taken all the girls to New York.
Oh well a comfortable bed
and sharing Daddy's Strawberries in Port are consolations

A new day and time to look for the Eiffel Tower

Taking the boat to the Eiffel Tower on a very rainy day
And there it is!
Visiting the Eiffel Tower: a dream come true

The metalwork is like lace
The stone footings are enormous
The Observation Deck doesn't offer much of a  view on a rainy day
Au revoir 
Back to London wearing a real Paris hat
One last special outing was a visit on the High Speed Rail Line to Folkestone on the South Coast
 to visit Great Grandma Janet, Grandma Diana, Uncle Bernard, Aunt Libby and Uncle Andy.
A beautiful day to look at France across the English Channel
Folkestone is attempting to revitalise itself through cultural initiatives including a Triennial Art Festival
 of  outdoor art installations. Bibs and Bobs are disguised as Edwardian children. 
Bobs proved to be an able walker of Great Grandma Janet's dog
We finished the afternoon with some delicious gelato

and back on the fast train for the 45 minute trip to London.
And now they have returned to the States. The summer is winding down here. Our end-of-summer August Bank Holiday is next weekend. Then it will be September and the new season of activities and cultural events will begin. In Hingham, Bibs will return to her Montessori School, and Bobs will attend a  play program a few mornings a week. Trixie will probably walk before her first birthday in October, so Megan will have no rest!