We’ve just finished a Grand Tour of the North (which included London). First was the SOTP summer party, which was very nice. We met the welly boots tribe, one of whom is also the mystery commenter on the SOTP’s blog, which is good and reduces the number of things I have to hold in my brain (like learning that Bruce Wayne and Batman are the same person).
There were two walks – one in the wet and one in the dry – to take in the glorious countryside and water engineering. J occasionally left DS corner, for instance to play Ticket to Ride, which K and I enjoyed too. Lots of lovely food and nice company, and of course books.
We were out-tented by everyone, as we took two small, cheap, basic tents (including a cheapy Tesco children’s one). The interesting weather on the second night – to recreate the effect, sit inside a small tent while someone hits it repeatedly with a cricket bat and then sprays a garden hose on it – couldn’t defeat them, so they were The Little Tents That Could. I hope that those whose tents suffered have all now got things sorted out.
Thanks very much to J, J, J, M, C, R and M (I didn’t see S) for being such excellent hosts.
Then over the Penines to my parents. In all my time living there, I hadn’t gone to the viewing bit of Manchester airport, so when we took the children there it was new to me too. A real Concorde – from the outside as beautiful as it is I wasn’t going to pay that much to go on – a 3rd size willow Concorde (see Flickr) and Dad’s binoculars meant that this was a nice hour or so. We also went to a garden centre that had a miniature railway and loads of railway signs and other bits and pieces (more photos), which was also good fun.
Katy had to disappear home to run the toddler group, and took J and A with her in the car. Mum and Dad and I took K and L into Salford on the tram, and for once got to sit just behind the driver. The first stop was lunch down by the quays, where a cormorant was fishing. At the time K and I tried to remember the nonsense verse about cormorants but couldn’t. I’ve looked it up, and here it is (it’s by Christopher Isherwood):
The common cormorant (or shag)
Lays eggs inside a paper bag,
You follow the idea, no doubt?
It’s to keep the lightning out.
But what these unobservant birds
Have never thought of, is that herds
Of wandering bears might come with buns
And steal the bags to hold the crumbs.
The architecture of the new buildings is interesting and varied, and a lot better than it could have been. We went into The Lowry, saw some amazing huge inflatable alien plants hanging from the ceiling and then I took the children into the galleries while Mum and Dad had a cup of tea.
It was meant to be a quick look but it turned into a proper visit, because they were enjoying themselves so much. Most art galleries I’ve been into have Art pinned to the walls, made by famous worthy people, many of whom are dead and/or lived somewhere else. The Lowry has a thing set up permanently to get visitors to draw, and another room (complete with member of staff, aprons, drying clips and racks and a huge mirror with Are You Clean? on it) for painting. Drawing and painting aren’t particularly amazing, but having them as part of an art gallery I think is great. It gives the children a much better connection to the exhibits, and it’s fun.
The other reason for going to Salford was to visit Old Trafford i.e. Man. U’s ground. Mum and Dad had taken my nephews to Anfield, and suggested to K that we could see Old Trafford. To see the pitch you had to go on a tour which was £15 a head :eek:, so we made do with the shop – at least that was free. The size of a small supermarket, and the thing that put the lid on it for me was a baby’s dummy with the Man. U. logo on it: you can’t even turn over, but we can make money out of you. Mum bought them some Top Trumps, so I’m learning about the current and past squad.
On the way back to the tram we passed the other Old Trafford i.e. the cricket ground, which had a War of the Roses poster up showing all the Lancashire vs. Yorkshire matches.
A much cheaper trip out was going up Tegg’s Nose. Fortunately the sun was out, so we could see hills in Wales, Jodrell Bank, as well as all the lovely layers in the sedimentary rock in the quarry at the top.
As well as that, there was helping with planting and picking vegetables, playing Mousetrap, watching TV, playing Braintastic and lie-ins for me (yippee!) and a bit of computer technical support.
We caught a Megabus from Manchester to London, which was cheap and great apart from the light in the loo switching off randomly. While we travelled down, Katy took J and A to the British Library where they saw the Ramayana and some old printing presses. The rendezvous was for about fourteen hundred hours at Coram’s Fields, which was fab as ever, particularly as one of A’s sets of godparents was there with 8/10 of their children. Tired but happy children were then packed onto the train and off to bed.