Such a satisfying day. The girls are off school for the second week of the Easter hols, Babyfather is away at a conference, so my good friend (who for the purposes of this blog I shall call 100% Mum) and I came up with a plan to visit the Cutty Sark in Greenwich. OK, 100% Mum came up with the plan. She’s the kind of mum who always has in her handbag everything you could possibly ever need when outdoors with children, short of a defibrillator – her kids come home from school every day to find a fresh craft activity laid out on the kitchen table for them – now, inevitably, she is doing teacher training.
We got a boat to Greenwich from Embankment station, and although it made the whole journey take roughly two hours, it was worth it. The river boat called itself a clipper, which was nicely appropriate, since the Cutty Sark is apparently a clipper too (not that our river-going motor boat could have done heroic voyages carrying tea from China or looked half as tasteful sporting a semi-clad figurehead at the bow.) The promised cloud cover never showed up and it was a genuinely spring-like day. It took a full three quarters of the journey for the Redster and her friend to find looking at the banks of the Thames boring out on the back deck, and the Cutester and her friend were fully entertained indoors inserting wooden tea stirrers into breadsticks and calling them ice lollies.
I’m never sure, on these kind of trips, whether the children are learning the sorts of things the curators hoped and intended them to learn, but I know when they’re enjoying themselves. I come away with a satisfying amount of historical facts in my short-term memory (from where it diffuses a warm glow for about 36 hours, before quietly evaporating forever) and of course I feel happy that the children are enjoying themselves, in a place of historical significance to boot, about which they might even one day remember something. In any case, it’s satisfying. I asked the Redster what she most liked about the ship and she said it was playing hide and seek on the top deck, where an able seaman’s bunk and the ship’s toilet proved to be the best hiding places, in case you need to know. I know without asking the Cutester that her favourite part of the day was at Liverpool Street Station, sliding down a slope between two sets of stairs where she should not have been at all, so there was no point enquiring.
My favourite part, in case you’re interested, was a bit of footage shot on board the ship in the 1920s of real sailors really sailing the thing. You see huge waves crashing across the deck; men doing silly things like sitting on those vertical things that stick out from masts (‘booms’ perhaps?) fiddling with ropes overhead, whilst hanging on with their bum cheeks alone; a massive whale spouting alongside; lots of people in sou’westers doing urgent things to ropes while getting battered by a storm; etc etc and it made me feel all misty-eyed about Britain’s nautical past. (That was probably exactly what the curators were aiming for. I was putty in their hands.) I didn’t need the film to be projected onto a big display of Merino wool sacks or to be sitting on a bench which moves in order to simulate sea-sickness while I watched it, but ten out of ten for effort nonetheless.
We went for Docklands Light Railway rather than boat to get us home. Not only were we back in time for the Cutester’s gymnastics lesson (it runs even in school holidays because that’s what happens when the head of a gymnastics school is called ‘Olga’), but we had time for an indulgent pizza TV dinner watching ‘Total Wipeout’ on iPlayer before the girls went to bed. Who knew that watching people falling into water could be so consistently funny and gripping for a whole hour? See, that’s Britain’s nautical past again. It’s in our blood.