The Curious and the Thoughtful

Londoners are spoiled for choice for things to do with our primary school-aged children. Really, we are. Once in a while though, everyone gets into a rut. I do. But you’ve got to try and find a light and climb out.

Last Thursday, after a fairly family-focused few weeks (read: exhausted, burned out, could not see the cherubs in my children), I had the unexpected pleasure of a preview tour of the Adventures in Moominland exhibition now on at the Southbank Centre. Followed up by a slightly boozy lunch with a dear friend, it was a somewhat perfect midweek afternoon (but it’s not that kind of blog post) and just the light to get me out of my rut.

20161215_123902-1You’ll need to book in advance and the cost is between £13.50 and £16.50. The recommended age is 7+. You’ll understand why if you go. To walk through these rooms is like being a child on a movie set. You’ll be asked to move around, to look, to listen, to crouch, duck, and peek. You’ll want to touch everything, but you really should not. It looks like it’s been put there just for you to discover. And it has. Appreciate that it takes an army of people to guide the small groups through and tidy up after each of them, restoring each of the several rooms (I lost count) back to its pristine state. If your child likes to run about and doesn’t really care for listening, please skip this event. And if you cannot go for the session without reaching for your mobile phone, please spare the others on the tour. One of our tour members was typing on her mobile the entire way through and it was really, really distracting. Please be considerate of others when you go. Hopefully, someone in your group will be a Moomin enthusiast and you can watch a grown-up gush with excitement over finding a ruby in a suitcase. It’s marvellous.

Now to the important bit. It’s absolutely magical. Having dined on other magical fare in the last few years (Efteling, Disneyland Paris, the Alps) I didn’t expect to be wow-ed by a museum exhibition. But I was.

I’m a latecomer to the Moomin tribe, having discovered a few of the illustrated paperbacks at the library when my children were toddlers. We fell in love with the language (for who wouldn’t love to read words like ‘Tooticky’ and ‘Snorkmaiden’ with your toddler) and the lovely strangeness of the worlds depicted in Jansson’s stories. If you haven’t been to Moominland, wait no more! Get yourself to a library and introduce yourself.

As my toddlers became children (and I regained time and energy to read again) I picked up Tove Jansson’s Summer Book, which she wrote later in life. I fell in love with this little book, a portrait of grandmother and granddaughter castaways, coexisting somewhere off the coast of Finland. Perhaps its the lack of a mother in the book (she’s died recently, thus bringing the pair in the book together) which appeals to me so much. Apart from introducing me to life in the Scandinavian archipelago, a scattering group of rocky outcrops which are only habitable during certain times of the year (how exciting), my heart wanted to know deeply about this relationship between a grandmother and a granddaughter.

Reading of their adventures with the cats, the boats, the weird neighbours, just being bored, I wondered about my own relationship with my grandmothers, strange beings whom I didn’t know very well, but whom I admired and respected deeply. They were tricky ladies–one probably just far too exhausted from raising ten children of her own to bother too much with her childrens’ offspring, but nevertheless taught me important lessons about how to endure and live, about how to be quiet. But in a very good way. The other, who smiled mischievously, and who claimed both Indian (“East”/South Asian) and Arawak ancestry, always seemed a little too attached to an odd collection of things and ideas, including how dark we children should not be allowed to become or how beautiful our long hair was. I tried as an adult to put myself in both of their shoes, as women growing up in very male-dominated, colonial societies where markers of ethnicity mattered and when being a woman meant proper hard work. I wondered as I was reading The Summer Book about whether I’d ever get to have adventures with my own grandchild (I’m an old mother, I’ve recently been told). I hope so. We’d be stranded in the Caribbean archipelago, though.

Anyway, back to the story. Moomin. The magic of Moomin. Tove Jansson has given us so much in her stories, in her sharing of her life with us through them and her drawings. Worlds to explore, the space and silence in them to let our minds wander back to thoughts of our own lives, the memories we are making for our old age.

I’ll remember Tove Jansson’s glasses, the p772691bf529714fdb2fde80d120af800hoto of her swimming outside wearing a floral garland next to the actual floral garland: the very picture of thoughtful decadence, of living (I’ve found a copy of it on someone’s Pinterest page). But it’s the self-portrait in one of the rooms that’s stuck with me after last Thursday. Our tour guide described it as lovely. In its bold strokes of pencil, I saw the wearing of life on a face, tired yet robust and still full of fight. Because I’ve been feeling exactly that myself, I think I was equally relieved to find the one of her swimming and carefree.

Adventures in Moominland is there, at the Southbank Centre, until April 23rd, the world of Moominland, cast in beautiful, sensual imagery and in three-dimensions. After that, you can find it in the books.

Double 10 Delights

chinese-mid-autumn-festival-vocabulary-phrases3

In the Caribbean, we celebrate something called Double 10, so named for the 10th of October. As with many Caribbean cultural inheritances, it corresponds sometimes to its ancestor, in this case the Chinese Moon Festival or Mid-Autumn festival. The common denominator is lots of good food, family and friends.

It looks like the universe is conspiring to get us down to London Chinatown this weekend as six of Chinatown’s restaurants are participating in London’s Restaurant Festival this month. Y.U.M.

Georgia Lindsay’s Family Garden and ‘Bub Tub’ Competition

Calm and reassuring, the figure of a circle makes us think of a great big hug, and Georgia Lindsay, a finalist in  the 2014 Grand Designs Garden Design competition, created a garden full of them. We met the London-based designer during a family day out to the Grand Designs show last Spring and instantly knew we had to help her show it off!

Action man

A gorgeous metal swing seat designed by Steve Myburgh (Myburgh Designs) provides comfortable and playful respite from all the action in the garden. Artificial turf is used throughout. This can be cut in shapes to help form the lids for the tugs and circular play spaces.

The colours and shapes of this wonderfully child friendly space made my children beam, a response Georgia was clearly aiming for:

“The circles were very deliberate. Soft curves seem much friendlier and child orientated than angular lines.” I also was taken with the boldness of simple colours and shapes that were. . .well, appealing.

Georgia-Lindsay A penchant for clean lines were traded in for a family garden resplendent with circles in order to create a family friendly and appropriate design.

“I am actually known for doing very clean lined contemporary gardens but for this Family Garden I made a deliberate decision to smooth out all the edges.”

The garden upholds the circular theme, from the choice of a single proliferating bloom–a daisy–to the circular-seats of the beautiful steel swing and Georgia’s signature ‘Bub Tub’ kiddie seats to the holes dug as an interchangeable sandpit or paddling pool or trampline recess, or even a fire pit for some grown-up fun!

The seating area is inviting, comfortable, and purposeful. The softly circular theme is maintained whilst remembering that children DO go to bed (after helping to put the toys away, of course) and then the adults do not want to be sat in the middle of a landscaped toy shop. To that end, she has oh-so-cleverly devised turfed fitting lids for the play pits.

seating zone

Georgia’s “Bub Tubs”: One of the attractions of the chairs is that they can easily transform back into a storage bucket once the kids have grown out of them. They also stack easily when the cushion is taken out and look fabulous in all the beautiful rainbow colours they come in. People also love that they can store toys in the little compartment under the cushion, a little bit less clutter is always a bonus with kids!

So how did she dream up this amazing landscape? “The brief of the competition this year was introducing colour to your garden,” she tells us. “It would have been too predictable using colourful plants to fulfil this brief so I purposely didn’t use any flowers with colour and chose the white daisies and green grass as a neutral palette.”

Atop this neutral palette are the play spaces and sitting spaces: a beautiful wrought metal swing seat hovers over a dug-out circle, giving the feeling of depth. The gentle steps up and down were designed to make the terrain easily navigable for little ones.  She is a mum of two toddlers, ages 2 years and 9 months and 11months, so the well-imagined and safely realised space is a true labour of love: “The garden was really a tribute to them,” she says, and “completely designed for that age group, hence the curved lines and easy heights to navigate.”

Grand Designs Live Excel 4-12 May 2013

Kevin McCloud, of the Grand Designs Show, called the garden “innovative and practical.”

Since the show this Spring, Georgia has been overwhelmed with interest in her design and for the “Bub Tub” she designed for the garden. “The reusable quality of them really has appealed to people. As we parents all know we go through kids’ paraphernalia so quickly as they grow out of things so fast.”

Innovative yet practical. And we really like that.

Creating Your Own Garden

daisiesGeorgia’s design was purpose-built as a small show space, but you can use some of her great ideas in your own garden, large or small.

Do consider the shapes of the things in your garden–choose furniture, flower beds, and blooms with rounded edges instead of sharp, angular ones. Georgia recommends sunflowers for rapid and impressive growth.

And back to the theme of purposeful–why not incorporate edible, weed-controlling blooms? “Strawberries are another great one, not only do you get the thrill of picking the juicy fruit but also the added pleasure of putting them to bed in a little nest of straw. All veggies give great satisfaction, I don’t think anyone could ever tire of the thrill of pulling a carrot from the ground and the condensed carroty smell which fills the air.”

 

Play Along and Win a Pair of Bub Tubs

Grand Designs Live Excel 3-11 May May 2014

These amazing little chairs are soft, stackable, and have toy storage underneath! Perfect for toddlers and pre-schoolers, for indoor or outdoor use.

This garden is so chock full of playfulness, irresistibly so. Mumsnet Local and Wanstead’s neighbourhood pub, The Duke, would love for you to play along, so here’s your big chance.

We’d love to hear your suggestions for simple, affordable child-friendly home gardens. The winner will receive a pair of Georgia’s signature Bub Tubs, pictured here. These are valued at £45 each. If you’d like to get up close and personal with the Bub Tubs, they’ll be at The Duke in Wanstead from Friday, July 25th until the competition closes.

Entries will be accepted from Friday, July 25th until Midnight on Sunday August 3rd. The winner will be chosen by Georgia Lindsay herself.

If you’re having trouble thinking of ideas, our friend at Mumsnet Suffolk and Norfolk has some great ones on her blog.

When you’re ready, post your idea to the Talk thread on Mumsnet Local – Redbridge. You must post your entry by midnight on Sunday August 3rd, 2014.

Good luck and have a wonderful, playful summer!

  • Find your Mumsnet Local web site here–register by updating your Mumsnet account and receive a customised monthly newsletter with all the latest happenings in your area.

duke wanstead

Head over to The Duke on Thursday 31st July & Friday 1st August at 10am when they will be hosting their Little Duke’s kids club.

Allons Le Tour!

Cambridge / Londres

Stage 3 of this year’s Tour de France will speed through our streets on Monday, July 7th before whizzing off to France via air transport. We’d had a rather fanciful thought involving a tardis, though.  .  .

stage 3 tour

Full route details online at www.letour.fr

Beginning in Cambridge just after Noon, le Tour will arrive in Redbridge and Waltham Forest in the early afternoon, criss-crossing the boroughs on the way into Central London. The promotional caravan–get your free Tour gear–arrives in Epping New Road from approximately 1.05pm followed by the race at approximately 2.40pm. The route continues down Woodford New Road, through the Whipps Cross roundabout, and onto Lea Bridge Road into Leyton via Orient Way then on to Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, through East London and into Westminster, where Stage 3 ends.

Best viewing points in the order that the race will reach them:

  • Epping New Road (Roadside, E4)
  • All Saints Church in Woodford Wells (Inmans Row, Woodford Green, Essex IG8 0NH) is opening its doors to the community for the duration of the event (café, toilet and TV screens) as well as family activities on the green.
  • Whipps Cross roundabout—large television screen to watch the race, Waltham Forest council-run activities
  • Lea Bridge Road (no facilities, roadside viewing)
  • Leyton Green
  • Baker’s Arms junction

If you’re watching from Epping New Road or Woodford New Road, be sure to check in at either of these spots:

  • Woodford Wells Club in Monkhams Lane (IG8 ONL) is welcoming the community to bring picnics, make full use of the club’s facilities and its newly refurbished club bar.
  • The Larder at Butler’s Retreat, 12 Rangers Road, Chingford, E4 7QH Click here for their menu.

Watching at Whipps Cross Roundabout or Lea Bridge Road?

Alfred-HitchcockWalk down to the friendly Sir Alfred Hitchcock Pub and Restaurant (147 Whipps Cross Road, E11 1NP). Full facilities are available and the manager is preparing a warm welcome for racegoers, including a BBQ! Unless, of course, it rains. . .  Do expect a lovely cream teas and the manager’s Tour specials–fish and chips, steak and ale pies. Full kids menu available.

And if sitting in the afternoon sun leaves you needing a little peace and quiet, take a break and visit Hollow Ponds Boating Lake, row a boat or sit in a shady spot. Just down from the Sir Alfred and opposite. Snacks and drinks available at the outposts, minimal facilities.

hollow-pond-boats

A bit further afield, the Duke pub in Wanstead is super family-friendly and is the perfect spot to head to for an early supper after a full day. Plenty for the kids to do there.

Le Tour’s official web site is www.letour.fr.

Plan ahead and make it a great day out!

Check out our Mumsnet Local partner sites whoa re also hosting Le Tour 2014: