Son has said for some time that he wanted to visit London, and do some of the traditional tourist sightseeing. And what son wants, son gets, because we love him. And also because we wanted an Easter break and London was as good a place as any.
We’re staying for a few nights in an AirBnB flat just south of Hampstead Heath, in what is strictly speaking Gospel Oak territory. The flat is gorgeous – clean, quirky, brightly decorated, well stocked with pleasant-smelling toiletries and home-made granola.
“Great choice Mum!” said son, delighted with the double bed in his room, and the telly on the wall, and the police cars that go wailing past the window… “That’s interesting. An ambulance just went past, followed by a police car!”
Mate, if you jump up every time you hear a siren you’ll pull a muscle. This is London. It’s full of accidents and criminals.
What did amuse me was the AirBnB owner’s claim that the area has a real village feel. It amused me because I have lived for the past 11 years in what only just qualifies as a town, where everyone knows everyone and you might as well say hello to each person you pass because you’re bound to be linked to them somehow.
This – Gospel Oak – is not really a village, is it? This is very much London. It’s a section of a city. A capital city.
Anyway, we had a great four-and-a-half hour train journey down here, leavened by lots of tea (me) and rosé wine (husband) and orange juice (children). Boarding the train in genteel Edinburgh reinforced the super-urban feel of London when we disembarked at King’s Cross. But despite my fears that arriving in the city in rush hour would overwhelm the children and possibly separate them from us, it was actually no busier than normal. Or how I remember it.
We navigated the Underground with ease, though I did commit the cardinal sin of talking to a complete stranger on the Tube – fortunately he took it well and smiled at me, unlike the fella behind him who stared in disbelief. What with talking to the stranger, having a massive rucksack on my back and bringing small children onto public transport in rush hour, I was clearly not from around here. A country bumpkin, that’s me.
The walk from Tufnell Park tube to the flat took us through estates of apartment blocks the like of which I am confident my own rural children have never encountered. They seemed unfazed. What did delight us was a row of three cherry trees, bearing sweetly beautiful pink blossom – last year we spent some time in Japan, where cherry blossom (sakura) is hugely celebrated. These Tufnell Park trees were a pastel smudge of colour in a grey part of town.
Arriving at the flat, daughter had a tiny meltdown when she realised she was being landed with bedroom three, the smallest of the bedrooms (even though it has a double bed). I told her she could share my room with her dad and I would take the smallest room. She stopped complaining. I think she’ll settle for bedroom three.
Husband has now gone out looking for a shop in which to buy pasta and sauce, since we are all too tired to go out for dinner tonight. That’s not true. He’s too tired, and I suspect the children are too, but I would love to nip out to a bistro for a bowl of spaghetti and a glass of red. Never mind. Plenty of time for that.