Summer in the City

I kicked off the summer holidays by discovering I had Covid while we were visiting my brother and SIL in Salford. I felt completely fine, and only tested because we were due to see my parents, and my mum is considered clinically vulnerable, so I thought it was better safe than sorry. I couldn’t believe it when I saw that second red line appear.

Obviously we then didn’t go to see my mum and dad, but we couldn’t go home either as we had travelled by train. Thankfully my brother and SIL were incredibly welcoming and tolerant at having three unexpected house guests for four days longer than they had planned, while they were also trying to work! Even more thankfully I don’t seem to have passed it on to them, so either three vaccinations plus a previous infection 6 months ago meant I had a very low viral load, or they have incredibly robust immune systems! It was actually really lovely getting to spend some more time with them, and the girls were happy playing in the garden, going to the local park (they tested negative throughout), playing board games, doing some craft and watching a bit of Disney Plus. It wasn’t what we had planned, but it was a very chilled start to the summer holidays, and maybe just what they needed.

Garden games

I also have to say that, after the insane heatwave the previous week, a few days of 18 degrees and drizzle was very welcome. Having grown up in the North West I think cool and drizzly is my natural habitat.

Travelling home the day after a train strike when there had been a serious accident on the line was less relaxing, and possibly least said about that the better. We made it home eventually!

At the weekend I rested – I didn’t have any major Covid symptoms, but have been very tired – and my husband took the girls out to hunt for chimpanzees in Central London, which they absolutely loved.

Photo by Chris Dalton

This week my eldest daughter has gone to Cornwall for a few days with her granny, and my husband is working, so I have some quality time to spend with my 7yo.

I didn’t want to spend too much money – we’re going to Switzerland for a week later in the summer, and Swiss prices have to be experienced to be believed, but I did want to have a fun and memorable time. Luckily London has loads to offer for kids in the summer either for free or a very reasonable price.

Yesterday I took my daughter and her best friend to Granary Square near Kings Cross. We watched a free Sing-Along version of Encanto at a pop-up open-air cinema by the canal, and ate a picnic while we did so. The girls then played in the fountains in the square, and I resisted the temptation to join them (the downside of summer in the city is the heat – did I mention that?), and then we went to a nearby playground for a while. They had hours of fun for the cost of a box of ice lollies from the supermarket.

Fountain fun

We have also signed up for the summer reading challenge at our local library and borrowed plenty of books to keep my voracious readers going.

Today was a real highlight. Every summer London theatres offer free tickets to children under 17 for the whole of August. It is a bit of an online scrum when tickets go on sale, usually around mid-June, but it is well worth doing. I love taking my kids to see live theatre, it really is a unique and incredibly memorable experience, but there’s no getting away from the fact that it is also expensive, especially in the West End. Today we went to the specialist children’s theatre, the Polka Theatre in Wimbledon, to see ‘The Pirate, the Princess and the Platypus’ which was a wonderfully funny and thought-provoking play about the importance of being yourself. My daughter was utterly engaged and absorbed, and it was a delight to watch her. Then we went to Pizza Express for pizzas and ice cream for lunch, which cost the grand total of 25p because I cashed in some Tesco Clubcard vouchers. Very well worth doing. And of course Pizza Express always provide colouring pencils and an activity sheet, which makes for a relaxed dining experience with small people!

My 7yo has also been playing out with her friends. We are lucky enough to live opposite a little cul-de-sac, in a low-traffic neighbourhood. One of her good friends from school lives in the cul-de-sac, as do several other children of a similar age, and most afternoons they can be seen playing out there with footballs or skateboards, in a way which feels very reminiscent of the long summers of my 1980s childhood. It’s not an experience a lot of children get nowadays, and there is a strong perception that it isn’t safe. I know in many areas traffic or isolation mean it isn’t, and I am not saying that I don’t have any qualms about my daughter, or that I am not twitching the front curtains every few minutes to check I can still see her. But as well as participating in some of the amazing cultural activities on offer, I really believe it is important that kids have plenty of time to just hang out, being a bit bored, and not doing anything in particular.

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