I, Tourist

The whole family returned to the UK, last week, for a bit of a holiday. It was decidedly weird coming back as a camera-wielding cagoule wearer and in some respects we really enjoyed it and in others it was very tiring. The over-riding memory I have is that the countryside seemed to satisfy the kids more wholly whereas London was quite arduous but sometimes brilliant; the countryside, if you like, was like sausage and mash and London was children’s party dotted with lollipops.

Some observations about the UK:

  1. People are fatter The statistics back me up on this, but for it to be apparent just because I haven’t been in the UK for a while is something else. The thing that really stuck with me, though, was that the children were fatter. My kids looked like waifs compared to their lumbering UK counterparts. I took the kids to a soft play area one day and a few of the kids struggled to get through some of the narrow gaps, some had to find alternative routes. One kid was visibly upset at his shortcomings (if that’s the right term) and yet at lunchtime his parents fed him chips, onion rings and a hamburger. FFS.
  2. Driving After being in Swizzerland for a while now, where the locals see Death Race 2000 as an instructional video, it was a blessed relief driving in an environment where people let you in, indicate, don’t tailgate or nick your parking space (I had that once, when I pulled in front of a space so that I could reverse into it and a Swizzer pulled in to it! Wanker!). Despite the gentle nature of UK drivers, driving a car in the UK is a pain in the arse: congestion charges, prohibitive parking costs and endless traffic jams…and yet I have never seen so many VW Touaregs! How do people afford to run them? How do they park the bloody things? What the hell does Touareg mean? Sounds like IKEA for loo-seat. We didn’t have that problem as our hire car was a Vauxhall Corsa; which is by far and away the shittest car I have ever driven. Takes even the teeniest glimmer of pleasure out of driving. I’d prefer to be dragged behind a truck with a rope.
  3. Choice I know that UK high streets are a bit generic and the same shops appear time and time again…but still: the choice! We have H&M and Maurice’s Salon du Corduroy…and that’s it. We wanted to go hog-wild but the choice was too much, we got befuddled…and I don’t used the term befuddled lightly…or at all, in fact.
  4. Natural History Museum Apart from the astonishing queue to get in (and we arrived early) the Natural History Museum is amazing. The kids loved it; more the sheer scale of the place than any specific exhibit. We obviously queued (again) to see the dinosaurs and the T-Rex is great but my son did say that is was a ‘really, really good puppet.’ Which it is. The things that really impressed me, however, were the museum shop and the cafe. The shop is an absolute joy with loads and loads of fun and affordable trinkets to remember the museum by. The cafe was also pretty reasonable with a good selection of healthy food. Bloody hell, I sound like a cross between a Mumsnetter and Wish You Were Here. Anyway, the museum is free and more amazing because of that.
  5. London Aquarium We were really looking forward to this and turned up super early on Sunday morning to beat the queues, which we did. When we did get to the front we asked: ‘is there somewhere we could put our pushchair?’ which was answered: ‘no.’ So London. Not, ‘sure, when we spent the fourteen trillion quid it cost to build what is basically a tropical fish shop in a basement we sat for twelve seconds and come to the logical leap that it would mainly be frequented by children and – gadzooks! – many of those children come with pushchairs and – holy ricecakes! – all those pushchairs might cause traffic jams in the narrow passageways of the Aquarium.’ The Aquarium is wonderful, with beautifully constructed displays cunningly interwoven into the catacombs of County Hall giving the impression that you’re going underwater underneath the building and the fish have been there all along. Some of the large tanks with the rays are simply stunning with beautiful environments that are build with real imagination. I never got the sense that the tanks were too full or anything. My only critisisms are that the main tank with the sharks in it is really milked and what you’re paying for is looking at it from different angles on your ‘aquarium journey.’ The other thing is the price: at nearly £60 for the family I nearly wet my pants.

When it was time to leave and we joined traffic jam #348 trying to get to Gatwick in our piece-of-shit Corsa, I asked my children if they liked London. Darling Daughter shouted: ‘NO!’ (to be fair this is her stock response to any question) and Darling Son said: ‘I liked the dinosaurs and the train [the Tube]…but there were too many queues and people.’ Out of the mouths of babes and all that…

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