I’m not just a mid-30s manchild who scours Discogs for old synth records and DJs them to ravers technically young enough to be my offspring. Somehow I’m also a dad. For the last three years I’ve been trying to find the balance between playing gigs til 3 in the morning, then getting woken up at 6am by the inquisitive prods and brain mangling queries of my son. Having a job where I mostly work nights means I can regularly spend time in the day looking after my kid, so I do. In theory, this is great. Your kid is ace company; just like you minus the misery and knackered back. However, as mums around the world have known forever, it turns out that as well as being an endless source of super cute one-liners and a handy way of making you seem less of a loser to your parents, your kid is also a grumpy little shit with the emotional range of boozehound in the bookies. Sometimes the only solution to the mad cabin fever you get after singing the Go Jetters theme tune for 2 hours solid is to bite the bullet and actually get the fuck out of the house.
Here’s the hard part. Where do you go? What do you do? I know loads of places to find rare records cheap, but it turns out that a 3 year old has roughly the same tolerance for crate digging as I do for Peppa Pig. So we need to find compromises. There are loads of websites giving you suggestions for stuff to do, but they’re either written by a) ‘lifestyle’ prats who like to instagram pics of cocktails in jam jars or b) this huge swathe of well-meaning mums who use an impenetrable language of acronyms to broadcast secret missives to the maternal resistance; SIL? AIBU? DS? WTF are they talking about? One of the current posts on the mumsnet forum- a post with 216 replies I’ll have you know- is titled “JF96 YNWA”. That’s less a post title, more codename for a virulent manmade flu bomb.
So I’ve had no choice but to take it upon myself to start checking out London’s many attractions. I’m talking Madam Toussard’s. I’m talking the Tower of London. I’m talking- God help me – Kidzania. Hopefully I can help my fellow hapless Peter-Pan-complex-having parents out there. At the very least I can write the exorbitant ticket costs off as a tax expense. Ha! Up yours George Osborne!
THE LONDON EYE
Last week junior told me he wanted to see the London Eye. By unwritten law of the city, I, as someone born and raised in London, have never set foot on the London Eye. I also view it as a trick attraction largely designed to fleece money off gullible tourists willing to fork out a fortune to ride the shittest fairground attraction in Europe. Luckily the boy is way less of a wearying idiot than me, and insisted on going. So off we went.
The London Eye is a piece of piss to get to from most London stations. We were coming over from Bethnal Green and it was a few tube stops and one change to Waterloo. Highlights on the way included me picking up a record from the post office (which automatically put me in a good mood- The Beat Boys – Be Bop Rock since you asked), and a tramp delighting in junior's belting rendition of the Bob the Builder song. WoiiiiOiiiiii the vagrant gargled, raising a can of Super K in homage to my boy’s sterling vocals. My chest swelled with fatherly pride.
He gets happy Daddy today.
Cos the sprog is under 4, he went free. Result! I, on the other hand, chipped up £25 for an online standard ticket. Sweet Jesus. You can pick a half hour time slot to show up in, but unless you print the tickets out at home you still have to queue up along with other ticket purchasers to collect them when you get to the Eye. We ended up stuck in this queue for about half an hour, during which an elderly Dutch women repeatedly tried to hustle past my kid. We’re not in Cape Town now luv. So I guess the lesson is, print your tickets off before coming and save yourself the indignity of being surrounded by people who don’t even live here.
Fair play, the whole process of getting on the Eye wasn’t at all bad. We showed up on Tuesday lunchtime, and it only took about half an hour to get into a pod. You’re not allowed to take unfolded prams on, and seeing as ours had all sorts of madness crammed into its underbasket thing (is there a technical term for that thing? A buggy boot?), it seemed easier to leave it with the guy in the ticket place. He announced we couldn’t leave behind anything other than the pram, so I ended up laden down with random sheets of paper, a crumpled, stinking rain mac, some long forgotten toys and a battered scooter. Another set of security guys were safe enough to take the lot before we got on the Eye, a tiny victory of human kindness in our heartless city. I nearly shed a tear of gratitude.
The boy photoed this ice cream van in the belief it would somehow make him more likely to get an ice cream. Not a chance.
When it gets to your turn to get into the pod, you have to jump on whilst it’s still moving – albeit reaaaaaaaaaalllllyyyy slowly. Obviously this was a high point for junior, who loves jumping on anything at any time, let alone a moving glass pod attached to the monster wheel. And then we were off. I’d thought the wee man might get bored being trapped in the wheel for half an hour, but as it turned out he loved it. London spreads out beneath you, and it’s nearly impossible to take in everything in the time you have. I was happy kiddo was enjoying it all, but for me the journey was an uncomfortable experience, firstly because I could see London landmarks were being swamped by the gleaming pestilence of luxury apartments spreading across London, and secondly because the meaty couple standing next to me kept dropping horrific guffs and snogging the faces off each other. Half an hour in the pod with two chunky bastards farting and snogging. I’m guessing they don’t come as standard though.
At least we got to see Mordor.
AFTER THE EYE
Once you’re done on the Eye, South Bank has got a fair amount of stuff around to enjoy. There’s a decent, free little adventure playground thing next to the Eye with all manner of wooden climbing frames for your kid to brain themselves on. There are also usually plenty of buskers around to gawp at. There was also, on the occasion we went, an old school carousel with dancing horses and dragons. We went on it and, as it started whizzing round, it started to snow. England, April, and it was snowing. As Prince only elevated to the Purple Dimension last week, for once the mad weather seemed less like a gruelling trial of British grit, and more a perfect homage to the man who sang Sometimes it Snows in April. And I’m sure the little fella, shivering next to me, agreed.
Nothing quite like England in the Spring
The London Eye was better than I thought it was going to be, if only because my expectations were so low. I’d give it a 6/10 – I’m surprised at how well it went down with the boy, who really enjoyed being hoisted way above the city, and was still talking about the day after. If you were paying for a child of 4 or above you’d get hit for upwards of £50, so I think coming when your kid is 3 and a half is a good move. It is only half an hour though, plus at least half an hour worth of queuing. My feeling is you’d be best waiting til there was something for young children to do at Southbank as well, and combine the two – as it was, I have no such organisation and ended up taking the boy to watch the skateboarders, then hurtle around Southbank on his scooter, which was probably as much fun as the Eye and carousel combined…