Chiswick days out, That was the weekend that was

That was the weekend that was: Kids unplugged in London

Every week I have good intentions that I will write up my weekend and publish it by Monday lunchtime. But here we are, it’s already Thursday and I’m still writing about last weekend! One day I will get properly organised! But in the meanwhile, here is last weekend!

Friday was a special day: not only was it my first day of the Easter holidays at home with Chiswick Boy (Chiswick Daddy was at home with him the first week) but it was also the first day that felt truly Spring like.

Magical mystery tour
Chiswick Boy and I decided to start off with a bit of a mystery bus tour. This is something we’ve done before: just hopping on bus after bus and seeing where they take us.

This is why we randomly ended up drinking lemonade and cappuccino outside the Holiday Inn in Brentford. We then ended up abandoning the idea of busses and walked down Brentford High St, enjoying the sunshine while chatting away.

The great thing about walking in London is that you always notice something new, even when it’s a road that you’ve trodden many times before. Like this war memorial:

Not a monument to the Second World War, or even the first – but to the civil war.


Civil war history

Brentford and Chiswick are steeped in Civil War History. The Battle of Brentford was on 12 November 1642, won by the Royalists who went on to sack the town. This is what the monument above is dedicated to.

The day after was the famous Battle of Turnham Green – not really a battle as much as a standoff between the 13,000 strong Royalist army and the 24,000 strong Parliamentarians. The Royalists were blocked from entering London – in itself a massive victory for the Parliamentarians.

This battle took place at what is still called Turnham Green of course (the actual green, not the tube station). Although it’s a much smaller green. In fact the tube station would also have stood on the green back then.


Why does time cause an emotional distance?

Thinking about the civil war history that this part of London is built on, I do wonder about the emotional distance that time puts on history. It is easy to get embroiled in the historical facts about the civil war and forget that these were real people, with real wounds and real fear, with real war crimes against a backdrop of what Wilfred Owen called “the pity of war”.

When we look at the monument in Turnham Green to the second world war, for example, the horrors seem so much closer than the coloured historical plaque telling us about the civil war battle for Turnham Green.


To infinity and beyond

And from writing about war, to writing about finding Buzz Lightyear in a charity shop. Such is the whirlwind that is parenting!

There’s a lovely little charity shop near the Watermans centre, and we dropped in to rummage in the toy section.

And that’s where Chiswick Boy found Buzz Lightyear – a bit broken in places, and in need of a serious wipe down. But with a bit of TLC we have the power to take him back to infinity and beyond! Not bad for a pound.

Giving me goosebumps

We hopped on a bus headed to Richmond next and… oh reader, I confess. I took Chiswick Boy to McDonalds.

Chiswick Boy really wanted to go to the cinema too and we looked at the Odeon’s listing. I really like going to the Odeon Kids Club which is just £2.50 a pop, and have also seen some new releases there.

The thing is that just to go in and see Kung Fu Panda Three on Friday afternoon would have come to almost £26… I just couldn’t face it. And the next morning we went to see Goosebumps at the Watermans for a much more palatable £5 each.



Looking for the sound of silence

But going back to Friday: We normally really like Richmond but that afternoon it just seemed we weren’t in the mood for such an urban adventure.

Have you noticed how loud the world is sometimes? The cacophony of modern sounds that harass you as you walk from one end of the street to the other. Filled with horrible noises, where a nice noise could have sufficed just as well.

  • That horrible bleeping of the green man
  • The nasty beeps from shop doors when they open
  • Busses that make horrid noises when the doors open.

So we escaped to that haven just down the road from Richmond: Kew Gardens.


Kew Gardens: a little bit of wilderness in London

We’ve had annual passes for years, and have just upgraded to a joint family pass, so Chiswick Daddy and I can both take a family guest, as well as Chiswick Boy. It just gives us a bit more flexibility to take my mum when she visits, or my aunt and uncle.

One of the best things about Kew Gardens is the great kids play area – both an inside bit and an outside bit. The inside bit is technically a place for parents and children to play together. But barely anyone does that. Instead the tradition is for parents to sit on the wide steps inside (generally nursing a coffee from the White Peaks Cafe next door) and let the children roam around.


Easter Bunny trail still on

Kew Gardens also has an Easter Bunny trail – which runs until 10 April. Kids hunt out six giant golden bunnies and then answer questions which give a letter. Once the six rabbits and letters have been found, they need to be rearranged into a seasonal word, and then that answer can be swapped for a real, bone fide mini chocolate Lindt bunny at the gate.


Saturday fun

We had so much fun at Kew Gardens on Friday that guess where we went on Saturday with Chiswick Daddy also in tow?

That’s right – Kew Gardens again!

This time we had a really good walk around the gardens. One of my favourite spots is the Marianne North gallery.

Marianne North (1830-90) is such an inspirational character.

She travelled the world researching and drawing plants, and her botanical illustrations are gorgeous. I always feel uplifted in the gallery, whose walls are simply crammed with beautiful and exotic paintings. It’s impossible to sit there and not be touched by wander lust.


Always something new – at Kew

Every time I visit Kew Gardens I see something new. I know that sounds such a cliche but it’s absolutely true.

I’d never really paid attention to this folly before:

I love the idea of follies – when I lived in West Yorkshire there were so many of them, often towers built near mills, that served no practical purpose.

Just in case you’re not familiar with the term, a folly is something built for purely ornamental purposes, with no practical purpose: usually something antiquarian or gothic in appearance. So here at Kew we have a faux Roman arch.


A walk in the park

On Sunday we hung out at our favourite park: Boston Manor Park. The stately home bit is open at weekends, April-October, so now’s a great time for you to visit. (The house is free to get in, and is manned by volunteers.)

This is Chiswick Boy’s favourite tree to climb:

I do think it’s important to be outside as much as possible – it does us all the world of good. Even when – perhaps especially when – we feel all slumpy and cold and just want to stay indoors in our pyjamas.

Don’t get me wrong – we love our indoor activities too. And the weekend was also punctuated with several games of Mah Jong, and some film watching. Not to mention large bouts on the ipad, as well as playing Skylanders on the Wii and Minecraft on the X Box.

So although I’ve called this post ‘kids unplugged’ – we were definitely plugged in over the weekend too.

But on the whole it was a weekend of feeling Spring like, and finally believing that the warmer weather was here. And that really is what the Easter holidays should be all about.

Oh, and on Monday we went to Chessington World of Adventures. But that is a whole new blog post!


So what did you get up to last weekend and over the Easter hols? Plugged in, or unplugged? Or a bit of both?!





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