I didn't buy anything in a charity shop, either for me or for the boys. There were one or two bits and bobs, but the prices were beyond charity shop levels, added to which I knew that space in suitcases was at a premium and I didn't want to take up valuable grams with dross.
I took my youngest to A&E which provided the opportunity to tick off a whole bevy of firsts:
- first hospital visit ever for me in the UK
- first hospital visit ever for my youngest in the UK (as you may know, we are regulars in France...)
- first time on the bus all the way to the terminus at the Romford end
- first time I set foot in the newly built Queen's Hospital (as opposed to setting foot in the old one; Oldchurch)
Another first was going ice-skating at the Natural History Museum on Friday evening. I booked tickets in the morning for the 4pm session and as we glided round, the lights in the massive trees and on the magnificent museum buildings were lit. Numbers were strictly controlled, so there was ample space, and people were very convivial and friendly helping those who fell over and so on. The ice was rather wet and my youngest got soaked as he spent a lot of time on his backside, but I had taken a change of clothes so we didn't need a visit to A&E to treat pneumonia.
I am a fair to crappy skater but managed to stay upright and did not need the change of clothes I hadn't brought for myself. I did enjoy the mulled wine we sipped afterwards, watching what was going on in the rink in the amazingly balmy winter air. There were a number of these outdoor rinks in London this winter including in the moat at the Tower of London. I chose the NHM for its reputation as the most attractive location, with the best viewing platform (for my mother's benefit).
Yesterday, in the rain, we took the boys on a double decker bus ride to a terminus we had never been to before. Due to various unforeseen circumstances (A&E), we had not made it to our planned cinema visit on this bus on Thursday, so my mother suggested a ride to explore the farthest reaches of the 248 route. We grabbed the front seats, and sat enjoying the enfolding scenery, in the warm, just for the sake of it. I use the word 'scenery' in the loosest sense of the word as the bus took us through a council estate of dreary, sodden houses, and while we were happy to have fulfilled a sense of adventure, we had no wish to make a return trip.
This morning we encountered our last 'first' by taking a shuttle bus to Stansted at an ungodly hour of the night (1.20am), arriving at 2am having bombed down the M11 and having to spend an uncomfortable and tiring couple of hours dozing on the floor waiting for the Montpellier check-in to open. RyanAir's latest method of fleecing its passengers is to stop priority boarding for those with small children, and the frail, and to make everyone pay £2 each for the privilege. Families who need to sit together are practically obliged to fork out this extortionate sum, as are OAPs, thus it's aimed at the 'frailest' passengers. I shall think extremely carefully next time I go to the UK and search out first both BA and Eurostar to compare their prices. I wonder what Michael O'Leary will think up as the next wheeze to price families off his aircraft.
Still, we made it in one piece having eaten our homemade bacon sarnies on the plane and arrived home to a loaf of fresh pain de compagne, butter and jam. Firsts are all very well, but they can be very exhausting. It's great to be home!