This started out as a treat for Otto: a trip on a train followed by a surprise trip on a tram. (He has carried his toy tram everywhere since being given it a week ago.)
Otto’s world continues to be centred round trains, although the latest addition is a tram.
Willow has more Catholic tastes. She enjoys playing with her new kitchen.
All the family are enjoying being near Dulwich and Brockwell parks.
There is an excellent play ground a couple of streets away.
And when the weather is foul, favorite haunts like the Transport Museum are still accessible.
I’m now installed in Kate and Steve’s magnificent new home in Dulwich.
After all their struggles with problematic housing bids , they have ended up renting a house and letting out Culford Road.
They moved on Wilow’s actual birthday – the 7th – and are still surrounded by cardboard boxes. But already they are revelling in the convenience of the layout, the sense of space, the truly magnificent garden and excellent location, hopefully within the catchment area of the best primary school in the area. I’m enjoying the luxury of the best bedroom in the house, with my own French windows onto the garden.
Otto is enjoying being close to not one but TWO stations (North Dulwich and Herne Hill) and, oh joy, when you walk out of the front garden onto the alarmingly busy road, just yards away the trains pass regularly.
the traffic is perhaps one of only two downsides, the other being the decor, which is definitely NOT my taste. But Kate and Steve are determined to look on the positive side and want this to be home for at least two years.
Otto has already settled down amazingly well at his local nursery (three mornings a week). His ‘best friend’ is his key worker, Pamela, but he has already started to play with one little girl.
My scooter has made a couple of successful local outings, notably to Goose Green children’ s play ground. It manages the up hills reasonably and a certain amount of appalling pavements. Perhaps it’s biggest challenge is navigating round the many trees which are cheerfully uprooting the pavements. No, actually the biggest challenge is scooting alongside Ella, who overtakes on her scooter at great speed.
Today it was put to the real test: I decided to combine visiting my friend Val in Shepherd’s Bush with clothes shopping in the vast Westfield shopping complex nearby.
The real eye opener was how incredibly eager everybody, especially railway staff, are to help. At Denmark Hill Station I tried to explain that I could in fact walk and if I couldn’t manage to lift it onto the train by myself I could ask for help. But oh no, they insisted on helping me into the lift and producing a ramp for me to ride up into the train. I felt an absolute fraud.
Thereafter fellow passengers rushed to help at every opportunity. I have already observed when struggling up station stairs with my suit case that tall, black hoodies score higher than men in suits in their willingness to help out.
What would have been a nightmare on foot, searching for shops in vast ill signposted malls was almost a pleasure on wheels.
Monday is Jude and Ella’s routine day with Charlie and her two children, Henry and Daisy. Today it was decided to go up the Shard – for my benefit. This turned out a real treat, despite the grey, miserable weather. I have always admired its slender spire, above London Bridge.
Entering the Shard, with security to match that at Heathrow Airport, and then taking the super-rapid lifts was a bit surreal. Once at the top the views were breathtaking.
At the same time it was sad to see landmarks like St Pauls dwarfed by the sea of mediocre at best but more often downright ugly piles. (I prefer it as I remember it from early childhood – surrounded by bomb sites.)
Even the gherkin, one of the few modern buildings I like is in the process of being hidden by more recent growths.
The Thames and the complex network of railways provided visual relief from the architectural desecration.
We finished the outing with a drink at the magnificent seventeenth century Galleried George Inn in Southwark.
… And the reason for my arrival yesterday.
Willow’s second birthday was a great success. The house was eerily empty of clutter – moving house the next day! – so there was ample room for the small handful of guests
Willow looked delightful in her pink birthday tutu, but somewhat uninterested in unwrapping presents.
She and all the children, including Ella – the oldest – loved the entertainment by their old, familiar friend, Richard.
Kate had somehow found time to make a birthday cake. Blowing out the candles was the best part, Wilow reckoned. So they had to be relit several times.
Who would have recognised the listless, sad sick baby of 18 months so in this delightful, impish and articulate two-year old?
The completed extension to the house is magnificent nd eminently practical.I stayed in the pre-improvements house in January, visited in May when the family was camping above the building site and followed the ongoing trials, courtesy of the internet. Now it is a treat to see the transformation to this quirky Victorian house.
The sitting room remains a stylish reminder of the past, though much improved by newly restored bay window and greeny blue Farrow and Ball walls. But from the sitting room you are beckoned through the gleaming white kitchen to a large dining/family room and to the little back garden beyond.
The dining table has become the centre of family life during the day. Ella sits painting and drawing, Maddie looks on benignly from her bouncy chair and Jude and I revel in the cosiness of a heated floor the stairs down to the basement are a real feature; they are reflected in the glass floor beside them.
Downstairs, what will be another family/play room is still a stylish empty space. The children love this – plenty of room to run around yelling. And the bedroom where I will stay is still full of unpacked boxes, boxes full of baby things waiting to be passed on, and a motley collection of wood and paint tins.
Very sensibly – though frustrating for them – Ed and Jude have called a halt to further work until their finances have recovered a bit.
Five thirty am start to get to airport. My first trip to the UK with my electric scooter.
I had been somewhat anxious, but the adventure was a good one. I towed my wheelie suitcase behind me from the longterm car par to departures without incident. Easy jet staff were slightly nonplussed as to procedures for electric wheelchairs or scooters, but eventually I was escorted by a different route though security and customs.
once on the plane, together with my two lithium batteries the air hostesses were equally nonplussed and summoned the captain for a decision on accepting the batteries. Luckily I had printed out the relevant rules and battery specs. So this turned out to be a non-problem.
At Gatwick I was the last off the plane as I waited for my scooter to be delivered. Thank goodness I had it: we appeared to be at the furthest gate of south terminal and I had to get to north terminal to the taxi ordered by Ed and Jude. From plane to taxi took an hour! This was partly because the (Nigerian) driver seemed unable to work out where I was. But then an amiable drive back to Camberwell.
no walking plus the extravagance of the cab meant I arrived much fresher than usual, despite the early start.