The wife and some others thought I was crazy planning a whole day out in London on my own - especially as I'd booked an hour of ice skating with a toddler!
Come the morning a hearty breakfast was enjoyed by all, then into 'day gear', bag packed (snacks, spare pants, drinks, snacks, and snacks), and onto the bike to the station...
- Spy on the houses near the train lines
- Watch the clock painfully to let at least thirty minutes pass before tucking into your snacks
- Draw a map of the proposed route, filling in sites seen along the way (yes, I assure you we DID see batman's cave..)
- Hold your breath in tunnels
(Frustratingly it appears that according to the guards I had kept my ticket too close to my mobile phone and/or my credit cards, so it had wiped the magnetic strip, ergo I had to pathetically whimper "it's not working" as I waved the orange and white card at the guards to let me in/out/shake-it-all-about of the stations. Quite where one is expected to keep a credit card sized ticket so it avoids being close to credit cards is still a mystery..)
However, being encouraged to run about amongst the flying vermin was enough to make him promptly forget his crushing fatigue and we ran most of the way through Green Park (the park, not the station) and made it to Winter Wonderland with plenty of time before our pre-booked trip into the ice kingdom.
At first he didn't believe the sculptures were all made of ice! But after explaining to him that the reason the building (well, tent) was sooo chuffing cold (minus 8 deg C) was to keep the ice icy, and very gently allowing him to touch one, he thought it was awesome!!
Some of the sculptures were MASSIVE and really elaborate, and the chance to clamber over and through an ice castle, as well as slide down and ice slide, was too much to say no to!
..it seems that would get up on a ride and a half up here....!
Miles chose wisely and we both enjoyed a go on a small roller coaster, and with ride funds dwindling, I did the thing any good father would do and convinced the ride operator that Miles was both older and taller than he is, so that he could go on the precarious helter-skelter by himself....
Watching a father AND son take their fair time to climb to the top, I must admit I became a bit worried and momentarily regretted my decision to save £3 at the expense of allowing my son to plummet off the top of a fairly tall ride..however I was reassured both by the fact that there's a 'man at the top' making sure kids don't fall off, and that Miles is a fearless legend and managed the whole jaunt completely fine!
As a reward (for surviving?!) we had a few goes on some shooting games (prizes = nil), shared a chocolate coated apple (snacks = 3), then made our choice of lunch from sausage and potato, sausage and sausage, or potato and sausage... We chose sausage.
But....despite it being an hour of the most back breaking, leg aching, child saving activity I've done in a long time, we both loved it!
At one point I let my guard down and the poor lad crashed down, knocking his head. Thankfully he was wearing his thick hat which cushioned the fall, but he was still in tears. I picked him up and gave him a cuddle and a rub, and the 'rink police' came over and told me I couldn't carry a child!! I quickly replied "I'm going to keep cuddling him, so I suggest you skate on over to the other side and swing by in five minutes when the tears have stopped...!" which he promptly did! (I'd like to point out I do appreciate the rules are there to stop parents skating about the place with babe-in-arms, but to be standing at the side of the rink comforting a tearful kid is slightly different!)
It was a great 60 minutes of us scooting about the ice together, first with him being held tightly under the arms, then just by the hands, then just by the scruff of his coat, and then on our final lap he made it the whole way round without me pushing or helping him go forward at all! There were a few occasions when I grabbed him to stop him falling, but he really did 'skate' himself around - it was lovely and the onlookers thought it was extremely sweet (probably..)
The concept of sitting on the top of a double decker bus was a thrilling one, but soon quashed by Miles' proposition of driving a 'triple decker bus'. Yes, quite..
Once in Hamleys Miles was struck by a)the number of toys, and b)the number of staff playing with and demonstrating the toys!!
Riding the lift, then the escalator, then playing with RC cars, then having magic performed on him, then watching cars drive on the ceiling, then nearly being hit by an RC copter, then daddy buying him and RC car, then playing with vibrating soft toys, all became a bit too much, and made our way back to the Oxford Circus tube and headed back to victoria.
I must say - London at night is pretty impressive!
Delays, cancellations, alternative services etc etc.
However, we managed to jump onto a train back to Brighton, but it was so jam packed there was only a seat spare for Miles. Some kids would be a bit apprehensive of sitting amongst 3 total strangers whilst Daddy stands out of sight by the doors..but not Miles! He was happy munching away on his pack-up whilst telling them all about his day, cracking jokes, and generally being adorable!
We were both shattered at the end of the day, and although it was a tiring (and expensive) experience, we were both glad to have done it!! Fun times are remembered long after the coins have left your pocket!