I was really looking forward to reading this much-hyped book, loosely based on the death of Damilola Taylor.
It is written from the point of view of an eleven-year-old arrival from Ghana, living on an estate. And from the supposed point of view of a pigeon.
I really, really wanted to like this book and find it insightful and meaningful. I expected to feel upset, and wretched, and distressed. I felt none of this. The problem for me was that the main character just didn’t ring true. I know children of about his age who are from Africa and live on estates and they just aren’t like this. Some of them are family friends, some of them I teach. To me, Harrison didn’t have the depth of thought that my own, much younger, children do or the younger children I teach do. Whereas an older child who was also a migrant would surely have more, especially in their inner-most thoughts? I didn’t believe in him. And once I didn’t believe in him, then the rest of it largely fell apart. The pigeon as guardian angel bit left me cold.
The Book Group questions provided at the end such as “”Has the novel in any way changed the way you think about youth gangs, knife crime or urban poverty” demonstrated what the novel was trying to do. For me, it didn’t do it.
We have had a house full of guests for the last two months. This seems to happen in London. Anyone who wants to come and visit, does so in the summer as who would want to see somewhere new on a short wintery grey day with little sunlight? Having the Olympics here has led to even more guests. Broadly speaking it has been wonderful, as the guests were of the dish-doing, babysitting, helping with the laundry variety. We loved having them here and were sad to farewell them.
But today, with just me and the children in the house, I have remembered what a house without guests is like. The kids have played dress-ups, and baked cookies, and made each other a treasure hunt. All those simple things that are just a bit harder when there are so many more adults in the way. I am writing this now, because we all know that in an hour or so there will probably be fisticuffs as the pair of them are completely fed up with each other. But right now it is good, proper, stuff – the kind of wholesome childhood we dream of our children having before we embark on parenting. I shall savour it while it last.
My kids love books. They love library books. They always want to take out more and more of them. But they never want to give them back! How do I convince them to part with some so they can get some more?
So, apparently Prince Harry got naked in Las Vegas playing strip billiards. Seems a fairly harmless, possibly amusing, way to get naked. He is not married or in a relationship. He was not on a work trip. He was not on a royal trip. I presume most of us get naked every day, even if just to get in and out of the shower. Really and truly, is it such a big deal? Can’t we all just look the other way and leave him to it? Seems such a childish and immature thing to all be tutting over when so much else is happening in the world.
We went to the glorious, outdoor, beautiful, enticing, chilly Jesus Green swimming pool in Cambridge yesterday. We gasped as we got in. We shivered as we got out. We brushed leaves out of our way as we swam. It was fantastic. I loved every minute. The kids loved every minute. They begged me to take them again today.
It was only when I moved to England that I learnt that, here, the word for an outdoor pool is Lido. This was a surprise as my favourite cafe in my home town was called the Lido, and I don’t think it had anything to do with swimming! They were once everywhere in this country. Now they seem to be closing at a rate of knots. There is a list of those hanging on here: http://homepage.ntlworld.com/oliver.merrington/lidos/index.html It is a short list and that is such a shame. I wish there were more lidos.
Tomorrow we are going to an indoor pool. It won’t be the same. We’ll pass an intersection known as “The Lido” on the way, walking distance from my house. Apparently, this was named after the Lido cinema that once stood here and not for a former outdoor pool. But every time I pass through I conjure up visions of the deliciously enticing, alluring, wonderful outdoor pool that I wish were there instead. The Ealing Lido, it sounds good, doesn’t it?
We will be under canvas at a Scout family camp when this conference occurs. But I really hope the Love London, Go Dutch campaigning conference on September 8th goes well. It would be so wonderful if London could become a more cycle-friendly city. Would be nice to kill fewer cyclists for a start!
Both my children loved cycling in Belgium where it was safe and well-planned. What a dream if we could enjoy similar here.
My parents, children and I went to the State Rooms at Buckingham Palace yesterday. I’ve been in Buckingham Palace a couple of times before, for an investiture and a garden party. Both of those were lovely, but didn’t really allow you to linger and explore. For the investiture, I had to leave a breastfed five-week-old at home, so was not exactly comfortable either. My brain might have rationalised leaving a baby at home, my body had different ideas!
We booked the first slot of the day, 9:45 am. This was a good idea, as the number of people was manageable at first. Crowds did build up over the day, so I would advise the first slot if you can bear getting up for it. I was also pleased that we had read the material in the booking pack so we knew that there are no toilet facilities at Buckingham Palace until the end of the one-way tour. We had a choice of travelling to Green Park tube station or St James’s Park tube station. Green Park has a large set of public toilets, so going there en route worked well for us.
The Buckingham Palace State Rooms offer two audio guides, one for children and one for adults. My six-year-old enjoyed the children’s guide for about half the tour, and then had really had enough of ornate rooms and expensive furniture. My nine-year-old enjoyed the guide, but wants to go again and use the adult tour next time. Luckily, you can validate your tickets at the exit allowing you to use them again for a year, so this will be possible. I may go back with him without the little one, as my time ended up a bit harried and rushed trying to keep her entertained.
Buckingham Palace has been opening to the public for twenty years. The reason we went this year was that they have assembled a large collection of royal diamonds for the Jubilee. They really are beautifully displayed, and completely breathtaking. Even my fidgety six-year-old could not help but marvel. They are only on display till October 7th, so if you are interested then you need to visit soon.
At the end of the tour, you come out into the garden and are able to walk along the edge of a good section of it. There is a café with nice, but expensive food, and a large gift shop. Along the garden walk, there were plenty of benches, and I noticed many people had brought picnics to enjoy there. If you were on a budget, this would be a good idea, as we spent £30 in the café and only really ate enough for it to be morning tea. I would say stop there for a coffee and an ice cream, but plan to lunch elsewhere. If you are an apple juice fan, the Sandringham apple juice was delicious.
At the end of the tour, you come out on Grosvenor Place. A few tourists were a bit disoriented by this, so make sure you have a map with you or check the maps inside the palace grounds before you are disgorged. Grosvenor Place is within simple reach of Hyde Park Corner, Victoria and Green Park, but that is not that easy to tell when you emerge if you do not already know.
We enjoyed our day trip to Buckingham Palace. I would suggest that it is perhaps best suited to children over eight years of age, though if you have to take a younger child (as I did) it is still possible