The fine weather has meant a great summer time with the kids. Being a weekday dad as well, I often have the opportunity to get out with the two of them in the periods when a lot of other parents are working.
The very hot weather we saw in late June and early July can also bring its problems. I’m not a big fan of heat, and the kids can start to wilt and become irritable as well if they’re not cool and happy. In addition, just recently, I’ve become aware that my youngest has never really had the days out into the city that my oldest had when she and I spent our weekdays together.
With another hot day looming one Friday, I decided to set out with pair of them – ignoring the heat, the difficulty of being a lone parent with two children in London’s public transport and the prospect of early fatigue – and do an Epic Dad Day Out. It had echoes of a great day out last year…
My plan was to do the usual local library sing-song in the morning, take the train and tube to Piccadilly Circus, walk to Trafalgar Square, over Hungerford Bridge and end up at/in the fountains at the Royal Festival Hall.
It was indeed a good day, full of excitement for the kids, stuffed with London sights and concluding with a good soaking. We started with a meal at Pizza Hut – not a classic as far as I’m concerned – but a perfectly good way if ensuring that kids eat something vaguely wholesome. It was only let down by the wholly inadequate baby change area.
From Haymarket, we wandered down into Trafalgar Square , chased the pigeons, climbed on the lions and investigated the fountains. Now my youngest is toddling with confidence, chasing the pigeons proved to be the best fun, if largely unproductive in terms of capturing the pesky feathered creatures.
My daughter has a great book, A Walk in London, and whenever we go into the middle of town, we point out the things in the book and put them into context. Trafalgar Square features, as does Charing Cross, and we walked through the station from Trafalgar Square and onto Hungerford Bridge. With the boy now having an afternoon doze, my girl took her time lingering on the bridge, watching the boats on the river, waving at their passengers, listening to the buskers on the bridge and looking out at the view towards the City and the Shard. We gradually edged to the other side, the South Bank, and the excitement of the fountains.
On such a hot day, water is almost a necessity. The fountains were in full effect that day, and we’d come prepared with towels and swimsuits, but many kids – of all ages – we wearing what they thought best, whilst dancing between the shoots of water and giving the impression that they were bothered by getting wet when, in the majority of cases, it didn’t seem to bother anyone. There was a healthy throng of people there for the hour my kids spent diving in and out of the streams, mixing with others, laughing, strutting and celebrating the cool water on a hot day. Tourists mixed with locals, toddlers with teenagers, sightseers with office workers. Everyone seemed happy on the bankside of one of the greatest cities in the world.
We’re obviously very lucky in London to have such resources, such choice, such diversity and the benefits of getting there and sharing an hour in the fountains with the kids more than counterbalances the struggles of getting there and back with a pushchair, two kids and all the necessary food, nappies, drinks and other essentials travelling short distances with kids bring and doing it in the heat and the rush hour. It doesn’t always.
I firmly believe that getting children out into the world and seeing what’s there, the beauty and the danger, is an essential growing experience and, in time, they’ll hopefully appreciate what a great place they live in and the necessary importance of living life to the full with other people in a place that allows us to do that so freely.