January here in the Attic always comes with a feeling of celebration combined with a large dose of personal emotion as we celebrate Little B's birthday at the beginning of the month. Although to be fair, I think I'm the only member of the family who goes through the whole emotional bit, but that's OK - I'm over the trauma of his birth and can manage to process all the vivid flashbacks internally, so it's all good. He is now eight years old would you believe, and I still so clearly remember the posts I wrote to announce my pregnancy in 2009, and his unexpectedly early arrival in 2010.
This year, in a spontaneous fit of lets-just-do-it, I booked us train tickets to London for his birthday. This was to be a first time visit for Little B, and the excitement was understandably pretty much through the roof and up into the wide blue yonder. It was an early start as our train departed at 6.55 am but we were all very giddy as I'd miraculously managed to secure us cheap First Class travel - woo-hoo!!!! It was a first for me as well, as in all my forty nine years on planet Earth I've never ever traveled First Class, not ever. Oh, it was fan-tAS-tic! I won't bore you with how many cups of free coffee I was served without leaving my seat (well, it was three if you must know, and in proper china cups!) or what free food we ate (pain au chocolat anyone? with yoghurt and fruit and juice and biscuits to the side?), or how much extra room we had to stretch out (oh the luxury), or how many other people there were in the carriage (only 2 besides us, so quiet and peaceful in the Upper Class Accommodation). Its safe to say that all those little things added up to one terrific start to the day and made the three hour journey whizz by in a flash.
We arrived in the Big Smoke just before 10 am, and following Little B's unwavering request we journeyed straight to the Natural History Museum. It's been many years since I've visited this incredible museum, and although it's changed quite lot over the years, it's still an amazing place to take children.
Little B wanted to go directly to see the dinosaur exhibits, but after that we just kind of wandered around and looked at things in a meandering, random fashion. The huge Blue Whale skeleton that hangs in the central Hintze Hall is just mind blowing, and was my most favourite bit by far.
I spent lots of time ooohing and aaaahing at the intricacies of the building as we meandered through the rooms, the decorative details are absolutely stunning. I usually feel very stifled being in old historic buildings (they give me a bit of Historical Claustrophobia), but not so the Natural History Museum. I loved it in there.
Coming out of the museum in the early afternoon we asked Little B where he wanted to go next. It's not like we had really planned anything for our day (typical of us, just winging it the whole way), so we just let him decide...and he fixed on Buckingham Palace. O-kay, yes, we can do that, no problem! J decided that we should walk the distance and with hindsight I have mixed feelings about that idea. It's not a short stroll by any means and it was flippin' freezing, but on the up side we did get to walk all the way to Sloane Square to take in Harrods before heading on through the poshness of Belgravia.
Little B was a weeny bit disappointed by Buckingham Palace ("it's just a big grey building!") but we did enjoy using my camera to zoom in and watch the very smart guard carry out his back and forth marching.
After all the walking we were in need of refreshment (it suddenly seemed a long time since the pain au chocolat). So we did our usual family thing and completely disregarded the frigid weather, eating a shivery picnic lunch huddled on a bench in St James Park. Boy, was it cold! Even the pigeons looked frozen.
After lunch we walked onwards through the park to take in the landmarks of Westminster. Little B voiced further disappointment as the famous Big Ben clock tower is currently undergoing refurbishment and is all covered up. Ah well, never mind, lets hop on the Underground and go somewhere warm! Over to you Little B - where to next? Hamleys, please!
For those of you who aren't familiar with Hamleys, it's a giant toy shop on Regent Street in central London, arranged over five floors with escalators and everything. It's full on, loud, in your face and overwhelming, but children do seem to like the over the topness of it. We went straight up to the Lego department where Little B wandered around in a trance, and I photographed all the lifesized royal lego sculptures (the Queen was looking a little dusty I noticed, but impressive nevertheless). We bought a small lego red London bus to bring home as a souvenir of our trip, and a pencil with a little golden model of Big Ben on the end.
After the toy shop experience I noticed that we were all flagging a bit and the 5.30 am start to the day was catching up with us all of a sudden. So I took charge and suggested we use the Underground to take us to Covent Garden where our number one priority would be to find a cafe for a warm sit down and a hot chocolate. Covent Garden was as bustling and atmospheric as ever, I never tire of it's quirky charms. I took the Little People to one of my favourite nooks (Neals Yard) and I wished it hadn't been so cold so that we could have sat there and loitered a bit, but it did look beautiful glowing in the gloom of a late Winter afternoon. We wandered around the old part of Covent Garden, taking in the street entertainment (some of which was worryingly bizarre I have to say) before settling into a cosy cafe for warmth and refreshment.
It was such a long, full day from start to finish (we got home around 9.30pm), but I think the Little People enjoyed it all. Little B really loved the whole experience of travelling on the Underground (he gets super excited by escalators, bless him) and actually I think the travel in general was exciting for him. It's a good thing to venture out of ones normal day to day environment every once in a while don't you think? We don't travel much as a family but I'd like to try and make a few more trips to different places this year, to give the Little People a bit of a wider view on life.
And in other news, Little B has one hand knit sock!! Just the one singular rainbow creation for now, but I'm so chuffed that it fits like a dream and he is really, really pleased with it too. I cast on the second sock yesterday, so in amongst everything else I'll try and find time to get that knitted up for him, especially as the weather has turned very cold here again this week and woolly rainbow socks are just the thing to keep toes cosy.
On the way home from London on Saturday evening I came down hard and fast with the cold that swept through the three Little Peeps during the Christmas holidays. I could feel it descending on me in Covent Garden, and by the time we were half way back up the country I was fighting a temperature and feeling like poop. So I've had a bit of a shabby week, packing away Christmas, trying to restore the house to some sort of mild order and preparing for the return to school, all on shaky legs with a hacking cough and a head stuffed with snot.
My Woodland blanket has been such a bright spot though, and I've absolutely LOVED seeing so many of you starting out on the journey with me this week. I've not been on my computer much since the weekend so I'm a bit behind with Facebook (which moves at the speed of light when everyone's excited!), so apologies if I've missed questions or queries whilst I've been fighting the germs off. I'm hoping to catch up a bit before Part 2 this coming Friday, and wanted to thank you again for your company on this blanket journey.
Thank you, you are the best xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx