Friday, December 31, 2010
Thursday, December 30, 2010
Of course, it's not actually as bad as all that. Projected spending cuts are only taking us back a few years in terms of public sector spending. And let's face it, when certain regions of the UK have over 70% of their GDP as public sector spending something is seriously unbalanced. It isn't sustainable.
But where I work, and I work on the public pound, they are taking an axe to the payroll. I haven't had my P45 (pink slip) yet, but let's just say I don't see where I fit in the new organisation. Which is a shame, as I'm doing some really good work and I am excellent value for money (I would say that, wouldn't I). That doesn't mean things can't change or that there maybe still isn't a place for me where I work, but it does mean that I'm not there for just any job. No individual is indispensable, but staying on the same path isn't the only way to achieve what you want.
So what will I do with time on my hands:
1. I will take a step back from public life to concentrate on spending more time with my family. And I mean that with depth of sincerity of any politician...
2. I will become a kitten farmer**. When we were in the market for a new cat, I couldn't believe how much a regular old cat went for in London. Or how hard it is to get a cat from a shelter. We had to go through a RIGOROUS interview process and pay for the privilege before we got our (excellent) cat from Battersea. All I have to do is drive to the regions and pick up a breeding pair and in a matter of a couple of months, I'll be raking in the cash. Plus, there will be an infinite array of cute kittens which I shall capture on video and post to my blog for advertising revenue. I hear that the Internet loves kittehs.
3. I will become a reality tv star. With more and more channels all the time, there's more and more need for reality tv. And I'm more than ready. The Vol-in-Law thinks we may be a bit boring for a reality show, but I don't think so. I'm sure we'll learn to play up for the camera. And we have a cute kid who I can teach some cute catch phrases - he's already saying "Watchyou talkin' bout?" and "Go on, go on" - two catch phrases that have worked well in sit-coms. Plus, all those kittens!
4. I will finally take the plunge and pursue my dream career of country music star. I will not let my lack of musical talent hold me back. I will be wearing a lot of fringe and beaded shirts and exotic skin cowboy boots. Oh yeah.
5. I will market my skills elsewhere. My passion for better governance is unabated. And since I love what I do and love working with a lot of the people that I work with - the passionate and inspired ones anyway - both inside and outside my current organisation, I want to keep on doing that. And I'll find a way.
* actually that isn't entirely true - there was some genuine improvement as measured by the targets and PIs which were determined centrally as well as some good local stuff, too. But this performance was often bought at a high price without much in the way of sustainability if the money's all gone.
** an ethical kitten farmer, not a news-at-6 type kitten farmer.
Wednesday, December 29, 2010
He sat quietly throughout the performance. A little too quietly perhaps, as there were many calls for audience participation and when I was singing and clapping he told me to stop. "Shhh, mommy quiet," and he held a finger over his mouth. And "Stop singing,".
For a three and half year old boy on a big day out in town on the busy streets of London he behaved incredibly well. And I told him so. And later on that night, I told his dad, too in his hearing about how impressed I was. But that's when his conduct took a turn for the worse. He was clearly upset by this. It's as if he doesn't mind being good when it suits him, but he'd rather have the reputation of a bad boy. Can't imagine where he gets that.
Sunday, December 26, 2010
I was never sure how I was going to handle the whole Santa Claus thing with a child. I like Santa as a concept in "Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus" kindness in people's hearts kind of way. But I don't like Santa in the "We must all tip toe around this great fiction and go to great lengths to preserve this collective lie or else it will ruin Christmas" kind of way.
It's clear that the nursery the boy attends has gone to some great lengths to fill their heads with tales. The boy has come back talking of "Father Christmas" and if he's coming and when he's coming and nothing at all of Santa. I have indulged in a little bit of "maybe Santa will bring it" when he pesters me over some longed-for toy.
Of course, I did issue some big whoppers this Christmas. One in particular over the Fisher Price Imaginext Space Shuttle that's been heavily advertised over the past several months. I did buy him the space shuttle, but unfortunately the boy spotted it and wanted it straight away. "Sorry," I said. "That's a present for another boy, but maybe you'll get one. Maybe Santa will bring it." There were a lot of tears, but eventually the boy gave up. "That's for another boy," he said a bit forlornly and eventually stopped mentioning it at all.
Except when I asked him what he was getting for me. "What do you think Mommy wants?" I asked. "A white space rocket," he replied confidently.
On Christmas morning the Space Shuttle was opened and I snapped the moment of reveal. I may be reading too much into it, but I think something on his face isn't just the joy of receiving the longed for toy. I think there's a bit of "I knew it! This was for me all along."
"Because if you pull that, Santa will DIE."
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
This morning I accepted a package from a failed delivery to a neighbour's house. Normally I'm happy to do this, but today it was against my better judgment given that package was HUGE and took up a substantial portion of my tiny house's entrance way. I had fears of it lingering in our house over Christmas.
The box said it was an 'air cooler' a little portable air conditioner, but obviously what was inside the box had to be different. After all, we've had record cold lately and although today was the first in a while that it's been above freezing for a bit, I'd hardly say it was tropical. I relented because it was probably somebody's Christmas present or a whole bunch of Christmas presents and I'd have hated for it to go back to depot turning me into the Grinch who stole Christmas.
Thankfully my good deed was rewarded when a few hours later my neighbour (who, this being London I would not have been able to pick out of a line up) arrived to pick up his giant parcel. He was surprised by the size and told me "I ordered this one because our house is very hot."
I must have looked at him strangely. "It's hot in our house," he explained "it's not good for me."
OK. Merry Christmas, I said.
It really was an air conditioner. Ordered in December and apparently to be used in December in the snowiest coldest December in London in living memory.
I was imagining that they're running some kind of marijuana/cannabis farm inside their terraced house to produce such heat. Otherwise, just open a window, my friend.
Tuesday, December 21, 2010
In my day to day work life, I'm a proponent of open government. More open data, more open governance, more open, more open, more open. But clearly there are limits*. But where those limits are is not clear. People like Julian Assange and other open government activists are playing an important role in campaigning for more openness. They are muck-rakers and there can't be significant change without stirring up a little muck.
But how much muck is too much? And oughtn't there be a little discrimination in the muck that's stirred? When millions of cables are released, there's no way either the leakers or the publishers of leaks can have read them all or made a decision about the value, importance or rightness of releasing the information. My natural instinct, even as a proponent of openness, was that this was wrong because it lacked thought. And wikileaks has a history of publishing data without sensitivity, failing to redact individual names, even in cases where being identified might mean death.
Having listened to an interview with Julian Assange this morning on BBC Radio 4, I can see how the organisation is, as ever, a reflection of its leadership. Mr Assange apparently lacks discretion or sensitivity.
I don't know the details or the truth of the allegations of sexual assault. But I do know this: Julian Assange is a prick. A prick either without much sense of irony or a supreme sense of irony (my organisations does not encourage leaks, he says - and that organisation is called, ummm - WikiLeaks). When Mr Assange and his legal representatives complained of his personal information being leaked by the Swedish prosecutors, I had to do a double take.
Sunday, December 19, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
The heavens opened and dumped a truck load of snow on London. Again. The perfect day for staying home or perhaps only venturing as far as the local cafe. But we had agreed to meet the boy's grandparents at the Imperial War Museum. Since they'd come down all the way from Scotland* it seemed churlish to cancel.
Actually the Underground was running ok and the boy was a little trooper through the snow. And he loved seeing the rockets and planes and tanks and stuff.
*not sure how they're going to dig their way back into Scotland
1. Plastic forks AND crayons in printers
2. CDs jammed into a PC drive
3. Two DVDs at once into a combi TV-DVD player*
4. Milk on a laptop keyboard
...and the latest...
5. Poker chips in a wii disc drive**
Wednesday, December 15, 2010
It's the nursery's Christmas party today, and they demanded that the children arrive in 'fancy dress' (American translation: costume). I knew I had two costumes I could pull together at short notice - cowboy and knight. I could have done pirate,too - but that would have taken ironing - so that was immediately ruled out.
I asked the boy "Do you want to be a cowboy or a knight?"
His response: A cowboy knight.
Well, of course.
Never mind that he looks a bit like he's headed to a costume ball of a white supremacy group raising money for 2nd Amendment rights protection, I'm sure it will be a lovely Christmas party.
Sunday, November 07, 2010
Thanks to the wonders of Twitter, I caught the story about the little boy who dressed as Daphne before it made the headlines. When there were 20 comments on the blog, not 15,000. And they were all supportive.
My initial response was to be positive, too. If the kid wants to be Daphne - then what do I care? But then I thought, hey - wait a minute. The boy was having second thoughts and the mom was pushing him to go ahead and do it. She's thinking tolerance and "accept me as I am"- but part of a parent's job, too is helping children to traverse the minefield of cultural expectations. To know when it's worth going with the flow and when it's worth saying 'screw you'. Or whichever choice of vocabulary you want your five your old to use on such occasions.
But more disturbing than all of that is the sexualisation of the whole debate. A little boy wants to be Daphne and people are worried that he'll be gay or people are worried that people will be worried that he's gay. Hello, he's five. I don't care whether sexual preferences are innate, partly innate or partly acculturated or if you can turn gay by wearing a pink dress, five is too young to be even thinking about stuff like that. Why are we sexualising kids so young? My son sometimes wears my shoes and says "I'm mommy." It means nothing. At least nothing sexual anyway. And if it did, it's likely that he'd become a lesbian - as I wear nothing but flats and shoes with plenty of toe room. Comfort is everything.
Sunday, October 31, 2010
Saturday, October 30, 2010
Today, there wasn't much of interest. But there was a heart of enormous proportions. I'd never seen one quite so big. My three year old could have easily placed himself in the center and made chrysanthemum angels. (Not that I'd have ever allowed such a thing).
It was truly giant. But from a photographers perspective, not so visually interesting - especially since I failed to actually place my three year old next to it for scale. But the roses on it are normal sized. So the arrangement would have actually made a good sized table center piece.
But what did catch my eye was the lettered inscription.
I'm not a grammar nazi by any means. My own work is littered with such homophonic mistakes. But these things are expensive. Each of those mums has to be hand inserted into the oasis foam. (At least I think it does - correct me if I'm wrong). And presumably that thing was on show to quite a few people. And the mistake would have been easily fixed. Those letters are relatively cheap. But no one caught it. Not the commissioner, not the mourners and not the funeral director. Or maybe they did and the person who bought it insisted on keeping it like that. Maybe it was an inside joke. I don't know. But I can't help thinking it was just a terrible and visible spelling mistake.
Bless there hearts.
Sunday, October 24, 2010
I reserved judgement, though - as I've never seen a double rainbow before.
But today I did. We left the playground slightly early as someone ran off and out of my eyesight (any excuse really, I was ready to go and given that he didn't put up much of a fuss, probably so was he). I was thanking my good fortune as it started to sprinkle after we were in the car for just a couple of minutes - and then the skies opened and the winds blew in a sudden squall. But the sky was still clear elsewhere and the sun shining - so I looked around for a rainbow - and then I saw it. A double rainbow. Pretty darn cool. One rainbow is much more distinct and perfect and then there was a slightly more elusive twin. Yes, very cool.
But not as amazing as the guy in the video makes out.
Wednesday, October 06, 2010
I was blessedly reassured by the site of the factory by the station. I asked him what it was.
"They make washing powder there. It's very historical." Historical, we reflected, as we gazed the corrugated cladding and the chemical tanks and pipes from the station platform. I guess the 70s is another century.
Monday, October 04, 2010
Monday, September 27, 2010
At the weekend, we were in Richmond Park and parked at Pembroke Lodge which now hosts many a wedding. In fact, there are often two weddings at the same time, and as lovely a venue as it is - I'm not sure I would choose it, given that you could easily find yourself mixing with hikers in muddy boots or a small messy child who does not follow directions (like mine). When we were there, a wedding party was taking up the picnic area. It was a beautiful day, but a bit chilly. Standing around doing the chit chat may have been uncomfortably cool.
On our way back to car, the wedding party seemed to have broken up and we caught the tail end of a photo shoot with one of the nuptual couples. Richmond Park is beautiful and it looked like the photographer was getting some good shots. As they were reviewing the thumbnails on the back of his digital camera, the bride must have shivered or complained of cold. The groom shrugged off his coat and gave it to her. How wonderful. What a lovely touch.
If you ask me, I think that photographer missed a trick but not turning around and shooting that. On the bad days, for all marriages have them, it would have been a lovely reminder to consider each other in the small things that make a big difference.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
I meant to do two things yesterday when I came back from the park. Check up on the Tennessee v. UAB game and find out who won the Labour leadership. I did neither til late in the evening, when I checked the score.
Tennessee squeaked through - against a team that we really shouldn't have had to squeak against. If you're of a mind, go and check out what a squeaker it was at this animated drive chart. UAB missed an astonishing number of field goals and with a score of 32-29 and two overtimes - it was only by the slimmest of margins and perhaps a shift of the wind that made the difference. I think I'm kinda glad I didn't see it, especially through the long (and what must have been miserable) second half.
As Vol blogger Will writes:
Still, nothin' like a nail biter.
Any Kool-Aid that was left in the orange solo cup was spilled on the floor in disbelief today. And while it's exponentially less painful to see in victory than in defeat, today was a stunning and very real picture of where Tennessee Football is right now.
I didn't even manage to check the Labour leadership scores until this morning. But I don' t really have a dog in that fight. I've maintained only a dim interest in contest over the summer - and it seemed David Miliband was a dead cert, until - well, yesterday. When his younger (shorter, dimmer?, less attractive) brother became the bookies' favourite and then finally won it after four elimination rounds.
The voting process itself - somewhat reminiscent of X-Factor or American Idol - see the votes tallied on first preferences first. David wins. Diane Abbot (perhaps the most entertaining of the lot) was eliminated. All of her 2nd, 3rd and 4th preferences are re-distributed and then... wait a minute. That doesn't sound right. Eee gads that must have been a headache counting all that up after each elimination round - what a complicated system. Anything that crazy surely would never be foisted upon the British public. Anyway, David came out the 'winner' of each round, right up until the end. He musta felt just about like UAB, if not but for one missed field goal - i.e. glad handing with union reps or lurching just slightly to the left. I shouldn't like to be at the Miliband house for Hanukkah dinner.
Anyway, brilliant news for the rest of us. Ed Miliband won't be as spectacularly bad as some of his opponents would have been for the Labour party. But y'all just keep drinking the Kool-Aid from your red solo cup. I suspect he'll have a lovely honeymoon period and then his true colours - whatever they may be - will shine through.
Photo credits: Valerie Everett and Arvind Grover
Sunday, September 19, 2010
(Photo credit Adrian Short)
And now that we've been in...
Anyway, there was a lot more to the windmill museum than I imagined. I didn't get to poke around all the exhibits as I spent most of my time chasing the boy around the upper level above the treacherous stairway to the workings of the mill. But there were working windmill models of all types and diaromas featuring threshing men and moth-eaten cats.
The boy had a wonderful time. He enjoyed the hands on opportunity to grind some wheat using two handy-sized millstones and he loved the pully. Pullies are fantastic for kids - demonstrating how a small machine can turn you into a weight lifting super hero.
And, of course, he loved climbing up into the workings of the windmill.
I think there was probably a lot more to see than I managed. But I will remember one thing - writ large was the fact No one ever built a windmill if they could have a water mill. Surely, these are words to live by.
And the Vol-in-Law spotted another bit of history. You know the bombs bursting in air from the Star Spangled Banner? Well, apparently back during the War of 1812 (the last time we were at war with the Brits) those particular munitions were a bit of an advance and those bombs were developed by a Wimbledon resident and were tested right there on Wimbledon Common in the shadow or future shadow of the windmill. (Not sure when the windmill was built - the model above shows it was in operation in 1825).
They had a pretty good turnout for the open day, but I'm quite sure it would have been better had the visiting Pope not been staying across the street with the attendant police presence and full parking lot of Pope well-wishers.
So all in all, I'd recommend stumping up the cash for a visit to the Windmill Museum. I've certainly paid a lot more to see a lot worse.
Friday, September 17, 2010
At least Buddy seems happy enough about the prospects.
Let's hope we're smiling on Sunday morning - if not over a win - at least over a decent performance.
Not being on the ground, it's difficult to tell what folks are thinking of Derek Dooley. Vols fans are notorious for the grumble-grumble. But for me, I want to be behind him. I like what I've seen of his style. I want him to be a legendary coach for Tennessee and I'm willing to wait for that to happen.
Former coach Phil Fulmer has given an interesting (ahem) interview about the current state of things. Didn't really expect a giant mea culpa, he says he supports Dooley, but he's working like heck to lay the blame at the feet of 'the other one'.
Thursday, September 16, 2010
I've been in a bit of dry spell regarding floral tributes. I haven't had a good image in ages. This is partly because I'm haunting the graveyard with much less frequency and partly because summer isn't a good season for floral tributes. Probably fewer people are dying, but also when they do the floral tributes aren't lasting as long and so even really good one may not be worth photographing after it's wilted in the heat of the sun. And the really complex floral tributes seem to be fading out of fashion. It may be the recession - these things are apparently very expensive.
But when I checked Sunday - jackpot - I spotted this one.
Meerkats are always quite popular and are the symbol of many a neighbourhood watch. Including ours.
But they also feature in a long-running and quite amusing series of tv ads in the UK where the meerkats are used to peddle insurance with the catch phrase "Simples" which has insinuated itself into everyday language. And this has made them even more popular. Anyway, first time I've seen a meerkat depicted in chrysanthemums.
Wednesday, September 15, 2010
I had noticed there was a sign on the entrance pillar, but couldn't manage to read it. Today I slowed down just enough to read it...or sort of...I thought it said "Apostolic Nunciate" which basically made me none the wiser. But then I put 2 and 2 together and realised the Pontiff was comin' to town tomorrow for the first Papal state visit to the UK in over 500 years and that the sign probably said Apostolic Nunciature which probably means Pope Hotel.
One of the Pope's pals won't be coming with him. Apparently he said that Britain is like a 3rd World Country. In darker moments, I may have occasionally said the same thing. Don't kick me out.
According to The Telegraph, Cardinal Kasper Walter made some disparaging remarks about the UK including that it was an aggressive new atheism was rife (which I think may also be true). In an article headlined “A Third World country” he was quoted as saying: “When you arrive at Heathrow you think at times that you’ve landed in a Third World country.”
Well, exactly. Heathrow is skank. It's better now. But used to be you'd think "Look, I bought a ticket, I told you I was coming - along with the tens of thousands of other people who are arriving today - the least you could have done was tidy up a bit. Run the vacuum, maybe? But really, it's ok, don't put yourself out on my account." I've been in genuine 3rd World airports that were cleaner and classier.
But in order to clarify his comments, it's apparently because of Britain's "multi-cultural diversity". Really? Yes, don't let the UK think you're just a snobby German neat-freak, make a comment that could be interpreted as just a teensy bit racist.
Who's handing the Vatican's PR these days? 'Cos I want me some of that media goodness.
But it's not because he's so 'plain spoken' that he's not coming, but rather because Cardinal Walter has gout.
All this puts the dodgy memo about possible activities for the Pontiff by a junior member of Foreign and Commonwealth office staff in a new light. This young fellow 'brainstormed' that an ideal papal visit* could include a special edition brand of condoms, sacking of dodgy bishops, ordination of a female priest and apologising to the British people for Spanish Armada (which received both papal blessing and Vatican cash). Then he was foolish enough to actually distribute that as a memo. And even though the then Foreign Secretary David Milliband made a 'grovelling apology' apparently that was not enough:
*OK, all the other ones are clearly a no-go and trashy. But I always thought the Armada apology was inspired.
(Photo credit filip1)
Monday, September 13, 2010
Imagine the shock and horror I felt when I saw a sign which dashed my hopes of free entry. I was pissed. But then, much to my amazement, the wide field on the left hand side of the long drive normally full of kite flyers and dog walkers was full.of.cars. I couldn't imagine why that many people could have made the same mistake I did about the windmill, so there must have been something else going on.
And indeed there was! It was a village fete, with tents and stalls and masses of people and what looked like pony rides. I couldn't believe I hadn't realised. And then I had a sinking feeling, fetes mean lots of spending small amounts of money at stalls. And I had very little money in my pocket (I thought we were going to have a free look-see at the windmill and leave, remember) - and there were two young soldiers guarding the parking lot and they were holding a bucket. For the wounded. Of Afghanistan. Really, you can't say no to that. And thus went a good proportion of my cash.
The first thing the boy wanted to see was some tractors parked up. A whole gaggle of children were climbing on one of those extendable platform utility vehicles - something I would call a cherry picker. It looked quite unsafe. I even saw a boy about the same size of my three year old climbing on the extendable arm.
Which I think made me allowing him up onto the platform which was at least 6 feet off the ground look quite reasonable by comparison.
We made our way to a recruiting stand for the Household Cavalry. Now, let me tell you something, I am no longer a young lady in the first blush of youth, but I nearly felt a swoon coming in the proximity of these fine young men in their dress uniforms and their high boots with a deep shine. The boy was impressed and told me he wanted to be a soldier, too. I wanted to tell him that those who administrate also serve. But given the chance to try on the regalia, I doubt if it would have carried much weight.
And the sword.
I could not believe it when the man handed my 3 yrd old a sword. Since the boy had the hilt I figured he had more chance of endangering others than himself. I stood well away.
More fun and frolics
The Wimbledon and Putney Common Open Day had loads more to see. Birds of prey. Endless tug of war. An ambulance you could go in and poke around. Intubation and choking dummies. Waggiest tail on a dog competitions. Horse grooming demonstrations. The boy went mad for horse named Chance and demanded riding lessons. I was very pleased to discover that he was still a year too young for that. Among children's hobbies, I'm not sure if you can find one that costs more.
The boy demanded a horseshoe (£1), a piece of ginger cake raising money for wounded soldiers (£1) - which made me think of the old saying:
It'll be a great day when education gets all the money it wants and the Air Force has to hold a bake sale to buy bombers. ~Author unknown, quoted in You Said a Mouthful edited by Ronald D. Fuchs
But I'm not sure if bake sales in support for returning soldiers quite qualifies.
And then he wanted a donkey ride (£3), which lasted about 45 seconds and made the riding lessons or paid entry to the windmill museum seem a really good deal. And that was the end of my cash.
It really was a fantastic day out and I imagined that it was quite like attending a village fete, but without having to leave the comforting embrace of the M25.
Of all the things we saw though, I think I liked this best:
Thursday, September 09, 2010
But it's fair to say that I agree with her on practically nada. But today I do: In the Daily Mail, she was reported as saying about the proposed burn-a-koran day at a Florida church.
Here's a lovely image of canard a l'orange from Flickr user franziskas garten. That is for sure one dead duck. Let's hope the resurgent UT can cook up a similar dish on Saturday against Oregon, with some extra zingy orange flavor on top. Chef Dooley (fingers crossed) can provide the instructions for gutting and roasting.
Turnover here is key and notice that in this recipe, you don't.
Monday, September 06, 2010
And they were about to make it harder still, introducing a kind of 'good citizen' requirement - a probationary period of volunteering. I was against this. Not so much in theory - it's a good thing. And not so much because of personal impact, as I've been serving as a School Governor for almost four years (for American readers, it's kinda like a school board, but without any real power and every school has one) and I've volunteered for a political party which also counts. But I was iffy about it because of the bureaucratic nature of it. How would you prove that you'd done work? Would there be spot checks to make sure there wasn't some kind of weird black market in the volunteering certificates? But these requirements may be scrapped by the new Coalition government (Telegraph)
And apparently there's going to be a shakeup in the quiz, too. Good. Although the Life in the UK was as a big a phone book in a medium sized city and packed full of Battle of Britain and parliamentary procedure and Magna Carta and so forth, the quiz emphasis was on quirky etiquette - What does one do if one spills someone's pint on them in the pub? Offer to duke it out the car park or buy them a new drink? - and navigating the benefits system. Really. Navigating the benefits system. Now, it's good to know that sort of thing I guess, but that's a bit like setting down rules for your matrimonial partner to be on just how much cheating you'll tolerate before you call it a day. I'd like to think that at the beginning of a relationship, there's a slightly rosier view of the role of the productive citizen rather than assuming that they'll be taking more than they'll be contributing.
Sunday, September 05, 2010
Alright, so we promised to take the boy to the beach - and we'd already chickened out from finding and driving down to a real beach and decided to take him down to some pollution blackened sands on the south bank of the Thames and let him play amongst the rubble.
The boy was so excited. He made me round up a bucket and spade and found a beach shirt and some shorts and some 'beach shoes' and got dressed almost on his own. He was literally skipping down the pavement and asking at every stop on the Northern line if this was where we got off for the beach.
Before we arrived at the sand, we soaked in some of the festival atmosphere of the South Bank. There were Morris dancers and we stopped to watch some acrobat cum magicians doing a bartending based routine complete with flying ice and glasses performing for free in front of the National Theatre.
But when we arrived at the beach I'd spotted from the boat the other day, the gate down to the sand was locked. Sure there was an artist down there building sand sculptures, but he'd successfully blocked access to the beach with his demand for money literally written in the sands and his clearly hungover girlfriend was lying on the top steps sleeping off last night's gin. The boy was grievously disappointed and cried and moaned and raised a racket. We promised to move on down the Southbank to see if we could find access to the shore some other way, but I inwardly assured myself that if we couldn't get down there, I'd push past that booze-soaked floozy and the access hogging sand artist and let my boy frolic in whatever the Thames had coughed up onto the shore.
Fortunately, we found an open gate at Gabriel's Wharf - and though it looked like civilians weren't allowed - for there was a collection of sand sculptors at work and not very good busker, there was no way we weren't going down there. The boy took off down the treacherous stairs to the sands below. And he had a blast!
After we'd had enough sand play, we had lunch at Gourmet Pizza which was only just up the steps to the Southbank. We hadn't been in ages - in fact, I'm not sure we'd ever been there with the boy. But it was still as good and they have very reasonably price, nice pizzas for children.
We walked on down the Southbank to the Tate Modern, housed in an old power station, where we had a bit of wander and like every child of a certain age, the boy had to roll around on the turbine hall floor like a work of performance art. The Tate was crowded and the boy was in his finest crowd dodging, 'do not enter' sign ignoring best. In fact, he wandered through one room singing. "Bad art. Bad art. This is bad art." And although Tate Modern has its share of really bad art, he was singing his disparaging verse in a room Rothkos and Calders.
So we decided to head out, but not before stopping in at the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) peregrine falcon observing station just outside. Some falcons have taken roost on the towers of the museum. The RSPB volunteers were very enthusiastic, but apparently the falcons were out for the day. We still thought it was worth looking through the scope which was trained on where the birds normally hang out - and sure enough no birds, but you could see the smear of falcon poo.
On the way to our departing station, London Bridge, we came across the Golden Hinde. Sir Francis Drake's privateer galleon. They boy demanded that we go on the ship, but it had been hired out for a wedding reception. And no matter how much he screamed and cried, the wedding party did not soften and let him aboard. Imagine! In order to placate him, we took him to the pirate shop nearby and bribed him into quiet with some pirate swords and a hat.
He was so excited he forgot about the ship and continued pointing his enormous pirate pistol at passers by and duelling with his father in front of Southwark Cathedral.
I'm sure the bishop would not approve..