Because BigBear and I are complete softies... actually, because I am a complete softie, LittleBear has a Half Birthday. It struck me that having a birthday in November rather confined presents and birthday-outings to two, rather cold, often dark and wet, months of the year. And a year is also a very long time to wait between birthdays when it's a third of your life. So, in May, LittleBear has a half birthday. The presents are very modest (two Bob The Builder vehicles bought on ebay and a sticker book) and mostly it's about having an exciting outing.
LittleBear's current total obsession is with all things ocean related. Penguins? Orcas? Whales? Sharks? Jellyfish? Anglerfish? Eels? Crabs? Polychete worms? All of them, and more. And an almost infinite variety of imaginary creatures, like the Mantet Chompet Shark, or the Jack Chemical Whale, or (today) the Polychete Shark. All of LittleBear's creations are the biggest, heaviest, longest, fiercest, most dangerous in the whole world, ever. Did I mention he's competitive? On the upside, I can now guarantee myself nearly an hour of nearly peace-and-quiet by allowing LittleBear to watch an episode of David Attenborough's Blue Planet. Sod this Waybaloo nonsense, or CBeebies, we want orcas playing catch with a sea-lion...
So, today, I took him up to London to the SeaLife Aquarium. That requires nearly an hour on the train, then two tube rides and a short walk. And BigBear couldn't have the day off because he had Important People To Have Meetings With. Ah well, I arranged for GrannyBear to meet us at Waterloo, only 25 minutes by train from home for her.
Things I did wrong:
- I did not allow more than an hour for the 6 mile journey from home to the railway station by car.
- I assumed I would be able to park in the station carpark.
- I left the window open at home, and only realised once on the train.
- I did not take head-to-toe waterproofs for us to walk half a mile in London in May.
- I failed to find the short route back from the Victoria Line to Kings Cross.
The net result of these errors was that we missed the train, not just slightly, but by half an hour, I had to carry LittleBear on my shoulders for just over half a mile from where we finally managed to park, I had to phone my neighbours in a panic and ask them to go round and close the window, we all got rather wet, I had to carry a small boy for even further, this time in the rain, then we missed the train home. And then I had to deal with a small boy sobbing "but we'll miss the next train too, and then we'll never get home!" in the middle of Platform 8 of Kings Cross as we watched our train pull away.
The up-side of this final episode was the very, very nice station manager who took pity on my exhaustion and my poor boy's desperation and asked me for my ticket so he could hand-write an endorsement on it to allow us to travel First Class on the next train. He then escorted us back to where we could see the departure board to wait for the platform of the train to be announced, and checked we were happy on our own before getting on with his day. It restored my faith in humanity. As did all the people who gave up their seats on the tube so me and LittleBear could sit down. People are nice after all.
Things I did right:
- I went to the London Aquarium. It is fabulous, and going on a rainy weekday during term-time is clearly the time to have unfettered views into every tank.
- I took LittleBear's ear defenders. London Underground is loud. Very loud. LittleBear does not like loud noises, and would have been unbearably unhappy if he'd been exposed to them.
- I took a sticker book for use on the train.
- I got lucky in having a little boy who listens to me, holds my hand at all times when told it's important and doesn't vanish into the seething mass of humanity that is London.
- I took a LOT of snacks with me to keep us all going.
- I took a complete change of clothes for LittleBear so that when he poured a mug of milk all over himself, I could change him into something dry (that could then get rained on).
My other notable discovery for the day was that I have a much higher pain threshold than I used to. My arm, back, shoulder and neck muscles were burning and screaming in desperation as I hefted 16 kilos around, in the rain, in addition to the rucksack of "stuff" that is essential for any trip out, but I didn't consider stopping, because getting my LittleBear home, safe, and as dry as possible, was more important.
Next time I might go on a slightly drier day. And take BigBear with me, so he can