Friday, 7 September 2012

I like London in the rain

Last week we realised the new school year was looming large on the horizon and so tried to cram in as many exciting things as we could muster. On Wednesday, we surprised ourselves with quite how organised we could be and as soon as the kids were up we launched into the car and off down the M4, packed breakfasts(!) at the ready. Instead of driving into central London to park, we booked a spot with a brilliant website ( and left the car just by Turnham Green tube, hopped on the District line and were at the Natural History Museum by 10.15am. (This is sooooo unlike us, we're normally late, disorganised, and harrassed.)

The boys loved the dinosaurs, although that T Rex gave us all the heebie jeebies. As a museum, it's one of my favourites - it's just so archetypically museum-y, isn't it? Perfect. Lunch then a quick race through the Science Museum, and we were on our way again.

Years ago I spent a bit of time working in television in London and used to make the very same journey east. Emerging from Westminster station never got old - you land almost in the lap of the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben looming over you and Waterloo Bridge is right there, inviting you to cross the Thames. It's tourist heaven. A loved it, especially hearing Big Ben chime as we walked over the water towards the London Eye.

In late 2010 we spent a few days in London for my birthday but heavy snow made our visit pretty torturous and meant many of the things we wanted to do were impossible. The London Eye was one of these, and A was desperate to go up. The view is awesome, even on a grey, drizzly day.

Next, we met up with some of our best friends and visited Tate Modern for the Damien Hirst exhibition. I've been preoccupied with the idea of taking A to see the show all summer - it seemed like the perfect thing to start all sorts of conversations about art. His favourite work was the shark (there aren't many opportunities in life to eyeball a shark) but the butterfly room was pretty amazing too.

I remember visiting London as a child with my father. We'd go to the Design Museum, the Conran Shop, Bibendum, the Chicago Pizza Pie Factory - all experiences that shaped our lives and the people we became. Something so endearing about a capital city, and I hope to be able to instill the same excitement for all London has to offer in my children too.

The best part of the day? Late on, the sun came out and we strolled along the south bank eating ice creams. A man had made a giant bubble maker from sticks and rope, and the kids were enchanted by the HUGE bubbles he was producing, racing down the pavement after them. Bit magical.

I found myself singing 'I like London in the rain' by Blossom Dearie all day long (apart from when we crossed Waterloo Bridge at sunset). If you don't know it have a listen. One of my best friends put it on a London compilation for me years ago, which started a bit of an obsession with Blossom Dearie culminating in us seeing her live in New York. It was pretty special. Her version of 'Manhattan' is sumptuous, and look out for her funny songs too - 'I'm hip' and 'Rhode Island is famous for you' are both chock full of witty words in the vein of Cole Porter.

I've just done a search to find her website to link to and have discovered that she died in 2009, not long after we saw her play. Very sad. She was such an amazing musician with an incredible back catalogue. Plus, born with the best name in the business, no?

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