As children go, my two are fairly low maintenance during school holidays, and thankfully most of the time they get along just fine together. Every so often there are little spats, and very occasionally the little spats become full blown fights.
You know the way that children have of taking a very simple dilemma and blowing it up out of all proportion until all hell breaks loose? Yesterday morning was just such an occasion. Firstly a game went wrong (cheating and suspected foul play), then a hideous row began over who gets to sit on the left had side of the sofa. Queue the mother of all tantrums (Little Lady) and a stubborn refusal to give way (Little Man, who's backside was occupying the coveted left-hand side of the sofa) and it was not very nice for a while in the Attic24 house yesterday.
I knew we needed to get out of the house because I absolutely hate myself shouting, and I could feel myself very close to it over the Sofa Situation. So I quickly checked train times and formulated a little after lunch diversion to get us out and about on what was a very dull, grey, uninspiring day.
I chose Saltaire :: a 20 minute train journey down the branch line to this quaint little place. We've been here once before, the Little People and I, co-incidentally exactly one year ago during the February half term holiday last year. Its one of those impossibly un-real sort of villages, with row upon row of cute little perfectly preserved purpose-built mill workers cottages. I am in love with little rows of houses as you know, and could quite happily have spent the whole afternoon walking these dinky little streets taking photographs of bright painted front doors, amazing stained glass windows, cute chimney pots and garden gates.
But the Little People, staring in disbelief as I run up and down streets taking these photos of other peoples houses would not let me get away with this activity all afternoon. No :: when in Saltaire there is another big attraction :: Salts Mill.
Salts Mill is a rarity these days in that it is free to get in. And it's an amazing building. Its the scale of it more than anything else which is so amazing. It's amazing to me, a full grown adult, so I can only imagine seeing it through the eyes of my children. Huge rooms with massive pillars holding up ginormous ceilings. Exceptionally tall windows with huge, deep windowsills. Fantastically oversized plant pots with great towering plants reaching up to the ceiling.
This is not a particularly child-friendly place I might add. Its a combination of art gallery, museum, shop and restaurant. All aimed at cultural, artistic grown-up people. Everything is at child height though :: the books and art materials that are for sale are displayed beautifully laid out on old wooden tables. There are enticing and curiously designed sofas and ancient chairs with DO NOT SIT signs. Beautiful and ancient ceramics displayed worryingly at child level with DO NOT TOUCH signs.
As a parent bringing children here, you need to be particularly confident and trusting in your relationship with your offspring, and in their natural behaviour in such a place. I am undeniably proud of my two Little People. They love this place, and understand without me saying that it is a place where they need to Behave, and they do so. Impeccably.
They look at every single thing, they are excited. They exclaim, they call me over to see. We talk about colours, about how old things are, how much things cost :: there're some very expensive items for sale in this place, we ooooooooooh at a single book costing one hundred pounds, ahhhhhhh at a vase costing one thousand and twenty three pounds.
I really enjoy the artwork here, I love David Hockney's paintings of which there are many. The colours are awesome.
I need to tell you about the smell of this place too. Throughout these massive rooms there are huge glass vases of white lilies. Dozens and dozens of them, on tables and windowsills, amongst books and artworks. The scent of them is incredible. Can you imagine it?
We are on our way through the second gallery/book shop, making our way towards the Main Attraction as far as the Little People are concerned. I stop to admire the looooong line of coloured pendant lamps, I really, really like those.
The Main Attraction is Salts Diner. As with everything else in this place, it's huge. And colourful and Designer-ish. And I love it.
I love the multicoloured butterfly chairs, the intense blue of the table legs, the painted radiators, the colourful photos on the walls, the different colours of the fresh flowers on each table. We order from smartly dressed waitresses :: a pot of tea and carrot cake, fresh fruit juice and ice creams. We enjoy is enormously. The ice cream in particular is a delight. It's homemade, and is served in a big over sized glass dish with a wafer jauntily stuck in the top. I am so happy to sit and observe my two eat and enjoy, it is worth every penny.
After the diner, we are suddenly in need of fresh air and a release from all the controlled behaviour, so we come out of the mill and walk down the short hill to the canal and the small Roberts Park. We spend a while swinging and climbing and roundabouting, before taking a walk/run around the park itself. The Little People run, run, run like dogs. I love watching children in large open spaces, the way they rejoice in the freedom of all that space is just lovely to watch. It fills my heart with happiness.
Coming home on the train, tired and happy, and they tell me what a great afternoon they've had.
Me too kids, me too.