Sunday, September 05, 2010

Privateer Lad

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!

On the Thames beach, Gabriel's Wharf

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.

Looking for falcons

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.

Pirate at the Golden Hinde

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..

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