A couple of weeks ago, an old friend Facebooked me that she had spare tickets to visit Father Christmas in his Harrods’ Grotto so I thought I’d knock several robins out of their Norwegian Spruce with one glittering bauble and take My Girl to London.
She’d been a few times as a baby, when having her with me was no more complicated than hauling around an extra piece of cooing luggage that needs a full breast and a bum wipe every now and then. In toddlerhood, I visited without her because I have a degree of common sense and because I’m lucky enough to have parents who are happy to have their grand-daughter to stay over with them for periods of longer than a couple of hours. So I’ve enjoyed the occasional Big City re-fresh at a gig, show or wedding. Ah, re-fresh.
Now she’s well into her fourth year, My Girl knows what’s going on and is ready to test life outside of our own little triangle of Woods-Quarry-Beach.
Let’s go and strike those robins:
On the day of departure, she pulled on her best-ever-charity-shop-buy fluffy purple Disco Diva mini-rucksack at 7:30 am and watched Milkshake, all ready for the mid-day train to London, keeping it there, on her back, until we arrived at my Nan’s at gone 4pm. On the train she was very well behaved but aren’t three year olds extremely loud in confined spaces? Drawing is loud. Reading Julia Donaldson books is loud. Playing roll the squash bottle is loud.
The Flat in Pimlico is home-from-home: after a visit from my cousins, together with an almost edible one week old baby boy, My Girl went to bed at the normal 7pm, I watched Corrie with a cup of tea and me Nan, curling up with a Kathy Reichs’ book in the double bed next to my snoring daughter by 10pm. A lack of signal on my mobile and no computer access meant a real holiday for me. In the morning, I had my prescribed couple of cuppas and she watched her usual Milkshake. A steady morning and then it was time to hit the West End, meet a couple of friends and show My Girl the sights of London.
Sometimes it’s so easy to forget that our children are brand new people and that there are so many first-time experiences for them, isn’t it?
This is how one little girl seemed to see things:
Tubes – Look at all these people! That tunnel is so dark! Feel that fast wind on my face when the train comes. Woo-hoo. If I hold this pole in the middle of the train, how far back can I lean without falling over? Isn’t it noisy in here? Can we go on another one please?
Escalators – Weeee. This is brilliant. We’re really high up. I think these moving stairs are the best thing ever. I want to go backwards. I can balance and I don’t even need to hold Mummy’s hand. Let go Mummy, I can do it by my own. That’s really interesting; look how dirty my cream coat gets when I rub it along the metal side.
Buskers – What’s that lady doing in the middle of the tunnel? She’s making music by blowing that big metal thing. I want to watch some more of this. Can we stand here for ages Mummy? I can’t even close my mouth, I’m so astonished. Isn’t she wonderful? Yes, I’ll put the coin in the box. Bye bye lady.
Father Christmas’ Grotto (Day 1) – Ooh, that pretty lady who is all dressed up has put PINK fairy dust on my hands, I like that. Knock, knock. That’s Father Christmas, he’s very big and his beard is huge. I’m not sure I want to get too close to him though. Oh, he knows my name and he’s given me a big chocolate coin and a book and a badge. Can I put the badge on? He’s nice. Can I give you another hug, Father Christmas? Can we take another photo of us standing together Father Christmas? I want a scooter please. Bye bye. Oh, hello Mrs Christmas, can I hug you too? What a friendly place.
Oxford Street’s Crowds – Tsch, I’ve seen people before: I’m not fazed at all.
Christmas Lights – There are loads of them in the sky, on buildings, in the shop windows and they are all different colours but I’m not too impressed really.
Carnaby Street – Look, Mummy, Look. A big PINK reindeer flying high above us. And massive hearts with writing on them. There’s another PINK reindeer and another one. I want to sit down now. I like it here; it’s happy.
Leicester Square – I want a Burger King.
Trafalgar Square – Can I please stand in the rain and watch all the people singing underneath that really big Christmas tree? I’ll put my hood up. And I can jump on the steps. I’m not even tired and it’s been dark for ages.
Science Museum (Day 2) – What’s that, Mummy? Oh. An astronaut? He goes to the moon in his rocket? He has to go in his rocket when it’s night-time though Mummy, doesn’t he? Ooh, here’s a big tunnel. I shout my name and Mummy’s name in it and I can hear it again, it’s called a echo. Look, I made a flower out of magnets, they’re all stuck together. And I built a really tall tower with numbers on it and then I knocked it down. Hooray, I made my own puppet show. Can we stay in here a bit longer. Please ….?
In short, it was a chilled-out yet exciting affair. Tucking her into her own bed last night, I asked here what she’d done in London, wondering which aspect of her mind-expanding journey had embedded itself the most. I was sure it would be the tubes or the escalators or the echo.
“I watched Peppa Pig at Great-Nanny Josie’s,” she said. “I saw the one about Teddy’s Day Out.”