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A Winter-themed weekend

For the 4th year in a row, I found myself not only in London, but also spending a little time at GOSH during the weekend closest to G’s birthday. Thank goodness that this year there was no admission attached to what is fast-becoming a December tradition, instead, just like last year, our reason for going was the December meeting of the GOSH YPF and with both G and M now active members of the YPF, we decided to make a weekend of it and round off the birthday celebrations in style, whilst gently kicking off our Christmas ones as well.

In the lead up to a previous YPF weekend, I was lucky enough to stumble across the Travelodge in Hounslow, which has quickly established itself as our destination of choice whenever we need to head to London for the weekend. A lot more affordable than central London prices, it is a short walk away from a secure car park and both the East Hounslow and Hounslow Central tube stations, making it an easy commute into GOSH in particular as all are stops on the Piccadilly line. This close to the end of term, we were able to take advantage of the fact that the out-of-school activities have now finished and headed to London on the Friday evening once G and M’s school day was over, and even managed a reasonable night’s sleep before our busy winter weekend began.

It started with our morning commute to GOSH, where we dropped G and M, both kitted out in their Christmas finery, for a YPF meeting filled with a whole host of activities and treats, including a hotly challenged Christmas quiz. Once the children were settled, Mike and I set off on foot towards Covent Garden and spent our day meandering the streets, exploring the shops and even managing to pick up the odd present or two as well. We stopped for a light lunch at the amazing Cafe in the Crypt at St-Martin-in-the-Fields, just off Trafalgar Square. This is fast becoming one of our favourite spots whenever we are in London as the food they serve is simple, yet delicious, they serve a few allergy-friendly snacks too and is a place I would heartily recommend to anyone looking for a peaceful break from the busyness of London itself.

Lunch done, we started our trek back to GOSH along Shaftesbury Avenue and stumbled across this group of festive, charity bike riders as we turned the corner towards our final destination. It really was a sight to behold as we were surrounded by Father Christmases as far as the eye could see and lovely to watch excited small children wave and shout out Christmas greetings as the cyclists sped past.


There was one last stop I wanted to make before we met G and M and that was at the Baileys Treat Stop pop shop located not far from Covent Garden. It was only open for 2 weeks and I was determined to take advantage of our trip and pay a visit there for a Baileys-inspired hot drink. The queue was long and it took over 40 minutes to finally get into the shop itself, though our patience was well-rewarded by the plethora of treats that was brought out to keep those waiting happy – chocolate eclairs filled with Baileys-infused cream, cups of popcorn and chocolate covered Baileys fudge and toffee. I finally made it to the front of the queue and having never tried their Pumpkin Spice version and not fancying a treat-laden hot chocolate, I decided to customise a Pumpkin Spice latte instead. I think the server was a little disappointed with my rather tame selection of “just” chopped nuts and wafer straws, but despite his best efforts, I held firm to my decision, which I maintain was absolutely the right one. However, the latte itself was incredibly disappointing and absolutely not worth the time and money I’d spent to get it. What I hoped would be a small Christmas treat for me really wasn’t and we wasted close to an hour with that detour.

However, the rest of our Saturday went according to plan and was a fantastic ending to G’s birthday celebrations. Both children had a great day at the YPF meeting and came away with some small and unexpected gifts and treats. G was really keen to have a Chinese meal for dinner and so we chose to double up M’s medicines throughout the day and then allowed him to relax his diet for the evening. Mike and I had done scouting around Chinatown during our day and we headed to the Feng Shui Inn for a few carefully selected dishes which the whole family enjoyed. From there, it was just a stone’s throw away to the Prince Edward theatre where we were treated to the delights of Agrabah, the fantastical quirks of the Genie and the addition of a handful of new songs to Disney’s Aladdin. This was G’s choice of show and I knew she’d enjoyed it when she asked at the end if we could see it again! It was an amazing production and we were incredibly lucky to see Trevor Dion Nicholas in the role of the Genie, a role he was reprising after a successful stint on Broadway.

Sunday morning saw another tube ride into London, though this time our destination was the Tower of London where we had booked an ice-skating session on the rink set up in the moat. Both children were keen to have a go at skating once again and Mike was just as excited. It took a little while for G and M to find their feet, but they were soon off and even attempting to get around on their own, away from the barrier. The session only lasted 45 minutes, but that was more than enough for all of us and M and I even left the ice a few minutes early due to the uncomfortable hire skates we were wearing. All in all, we had a fantastic and fun-filled family winter-themed weekend and it felt like a fitting end to what has been a long school term.


Big Bang Science Fair

Last weekend we travelled to the Big Bang Science Fair at the NEC, Birmingham for a day full of science, maths and electronics fun.  This isn’t an event we’ve been to before and I have to confess that it wouldn’t necessarily have been one that would have even registered in our consciousness before this year.  Since last September, M has been attending a weekly Electronics Club after school and he loves every moment of it.  During the past few months, he has learnt to program a Raspberry Pi, has become an expert with circuit boards, has written his own computer games using Scratch, built a crawling microbug and is now embarking on his latest project, a turning frog.

M getting hands on with one of the exhibits

M getting hands on with one of the exhibits

Electronics has quickly developed into one of the great passions in M’s life and his recent birthday gifts reflected this new-found interest. From solar-powered robots to salt-water cars and night-sky constellations to a build-your-own robot arm, there’s been an awful lot of “building” going on in our household on a nightly basis.  So, when the Electronics Club mentioned a possible day-trip to the NEC for the Big Bang Science Fair, M leapt at the chance and soon had the rest of the family on board too.  We arrived at around 11am, split into small groups and started making our way around the huge number of exhibits that were there.  There was a brief hiatus for lunch and then it was back to exploring the space before the show finished at 4.30pm.

G working hard to power the lightbulbs

G working hard to power the lightbulbs

Mike and M were in one group, whilst G and I were in another and we followed different paths around the hall.  G loved her opportunity to generate enough power to light up some lightbulbs through pedal-power, whilst my favourite exhibit was playing musical vegetables, thanks to a piece of music software and some clever wiring.  M, on the other hand, has been hard pressed to choose his favourite activity, although he is very proud of his memento of a rock-hard silicone glove, created by mixing some chemicals together (don’t ask me which, neither Mike or M can remember!).  He also become the subject of discussion with some university students working there, when a medical student spotted his NG-tube and called her colleagues over as they had never seen a tube in situ before.  Mike was also impressed that one of the nurses working on the ambulance display had not only heard of EGID, but also knew a little about it.

2015-03-14 16.24.25It was a fantastic and fascinating day out and M has already requested a repeat visit next year, with just one proviso:  that we get there right at the start of the day in the hope those extra couple of hours might enable us to see everything there is to see.