Monday, September 13, 2010

Wimbledon Common Open Day

We were a bit lame yesterday, but suddenly, and after an embarrasingly large number of Sponge Bob episodes, I remembered that it was open day at Wimbledon Common. Hurrah. For years, I've wondered what it looks like on the inside of the windmill at Wimbledon Common and this was my chance. A daunting entry fee prohibited me from entering all these years and when last year - the price doubled to £2 (about $3) I knew paying entry was not likely. But on an open day, I'd have free entry, free to gambol in the 20 square feet of history of the windmill display.

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 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.

Danger boy

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.

Household Cavalry Helmet

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.

Choking training dummy

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:

Lost keys


London Colin said...

You have confused STABLES Open Day and LONDON HOUSE Open Day.
The Windmill has free entry on Saturday 18th September.
And where is the wonderful generosity of Americans? £2 entry to the Windmill Museum is fantastic value and is only possible because it is run by volunteers who give their time for free.

Vol Abroad said...

Ahhh....ok, I will be there. And I will leave a donation. :-)

Vol in Law said...

Value is all relative, plus we're very cheap.
Thanks to government subsidies,

British Museum - free
Natural History Museum - free

And our common destination in SE London,
The Horniman Museum - free

Wimbledon windmill - £2 each

That's some tough competition.

While I tend to donate around £2-£3to the free museums, depending on mood and the quality of my experience - eg we had a good time at the Horniman on Sunday so I left them £3 - that's (a) voluntary and (b) on exit, not entry.

The result has been that the £1 charge to the windmill was always just enough to deter the two of us, although we'd have probably left a pound or so on exit from a free museum and visited quite a few times if it's good; and then when it went to £2 each and three of us, no chance.

Still if it's really fantastic, once we see it for free maybe we'll be back as paying customers!