Warning!! Ultra, ultra looooong post coming up with over 60 photos. Apologies (but it was such a good day, I couldn’t resist 🙂 )
The morning eventually arrived. We were all experiencing a mixture of anxiety and exhilaration. I had spent a night worrying whether I was pushing the chicks out of the nest too soon, so to speak. On the wave of a sleepless night I manically rushed around the house attempting to find ‘lost’ maps and papers (they were all safely organised on my desk!). Given I had spent hours organising and planning for this, I was by far the biggest flapper of the morning!
Our plan had been to sandwich the children, with me going up to London, and each destination, first and then the children, followed by Gary. On the day, I think everyone wondered if I would be able to find my way into London, let alone find each destination. I’m not sure why I had got myself so worked up, but there were definitely raised eyebrows questioning my capabilities at this whole London thing, let alone anyone else’s. Which is ridiculous really, since I had lived in London for a year and never managed to get myself lost. Not even once.
In the end
we I decided that we would follow the children at a distance, but catch the same train, bus etc, basically ensuring they were in our sight at all times, but still navigating London completely by themselves. Lillie was much happier with this new arrangement, as was I. In fact, I think this made the day a hundred times better than it would have been because we saw firsthand the children working together, we were able to take photos with my long lens to document the day…..anyway, I digress.
Leg One: Home to London Victoria
So the children walked down to the village station, with us trailing behind. Once at the station I attempted to take a photo of them waiting for the train, only I had forgotten my SD card! I did so much fussing at home, looking for my maps (and at one point re photocopying them), which were, all the time, sitting nicely organised on my desk, I had forgotten to check my camera. My heart sank. We were only just starting the day – this was not boding well.
The train arrived. The children got into the first carriage, whilst we traveled in one three or four carriages down. We had not even arrived at the next station when we received a text from Thomas:
Thomas: We have a leaking bottle situation, first carriage
Me: We have a missing SD card situation 🙁
Me: I am a complete dimwit!
Thomas: You dimwit!!
Me: Thank you son
Me: Lid issue? Pop in bin and give her your spare one?
Thomas: Water, not Lucozade, and we are drying the bag as well
Me? What with? At least it won’t be sticky!
Thomas: A local newspaper 🙂
Me: Brilliant! Daddy says fantastic use of initiative!
Thomas: Ah, thank you!!
This was going to be a long, if slightly humourous day 🙂
We all arrived at London Waterloo safely without any other incidents. Whilst I quickly popped into WH Smiths for an SD card, the children studied their maps for the second leg of the journey.
Second Leg: London Victoria to 221b Bakers Street
Off they went. Within moments they were lost. Actually not lost but definitely walking in the completely wrong direction. Typical Charlotte, who is known for her atrocious sense of direction, although she blamed Lillie 🙂
So they regrouped, found their bearings….
And eventually arrived at the right bus stop:
They experienced their first sight of homelessness, which I could see, even from a distance, broke my little Charlotte’s heart in two:
But soon they were jumping on the number 82 bus:
They went upstairs whilst Gary and I stayed downstairs. The children learnt how to keep an eye on the electric board which told them which stop they were approaching, as well as pressing the button to indicate they wanted to get off. Once off they continued to follow their map….
Which took them straight to the door of Sherlock Holmes’ ‘living quarters’:
They managed to get a photo taken with the policeman guarding the door 😀
At this point, we joined together, with Gary and Lillie walking to the Sherlock Holmes Statue and taking some photos and Thomas, Charlotte and I paying for entrance into Sherlock Holmes’ Museum (I will be writing a separate post on Sherlock Holmes and will include all my inside photos then).
Third Leg: Sherlock Holmes (Baker Street) to the Albert Memorial in Hyde Park
Sooooo, Gary was with Lillie and apparently waiting for us at Baker Street station. For which we needed to turn right on exiting the Sherlock Holmes Museum. We turned left. I, too, am not known for my excellent map reading skills. In fact, I have no map reading skills. We wandered around aimlessly, phoned Gary, who advised us to turn round and look down Baker Street, and to our surprise, there he and Lillie were:
At this point Thomas took over and Gary and I returned to straggler traveler status, following where ever they took us. This was their first time on the underground. We had had a teaching session on working out whether they needed to travel North or South, or East or West. Thomas managed it manfully, although there were times I was silently willing him to slow down to reassure Lillie she would not get lost, and to allow his other sister to keep up (Charlotte has a painful knee). That said, he confidently led them to from Baker Street to Bond Street, changing there to catch a different train to Lancaster gate:
Once at Lancaster Gate, he navigated his way out of the underground….
and into Hyde Park:
Thomas had particularly wanted to stop for lunch in the Italian gardens, so we found a seat and ate together:Whilst Lillie sketched a bit, we chatted about the morning so far:
Each of the children had been in charge of navigating one stretch of the journey each, and I asked them to reflect on their own (and only their own) leadership and following skills. I figured they would probably have a lot to say about each others’ skills but I wanted them to only focus on themselves.
Watching my children take turns in leading and following, ensuring each other was safe and working together as a team made me quite tearful. I was so proud of these incredible people who I was blessed to be related to. None of them did it perfectly, but all of them had learnt so much about themselves and each other. It was particularly gratifying to see Thomas lead so purposefully and confidently. He learnt that he needed to improve his leading by being more focused on his team, their strengths and weaknesses and to try to conquer the impatience he sometimes battles with. Lillie, who is not a natural leader, did her leg competently, with ease. She felt much more confident going into the next leg (which she would be leading once they arrived at the Albert Memorial). Poor Charlotte was struggling a lot with her knees. She has legs which are not only flat footed but also come in at the knees and then out again, putting lots of pressure on her knees. She was taking pain relief every three hours just to get her round London. After we had heard their thoughts, we shared ours and asked that they try to improve on our observations of the morning during their afternoon navigations.
I took a few photos of Hyde park, including a lovely one of them all together:
We spent an hour in Hyde park, soaking up the atmosphere, its beauty and all its gorgeous nature:
But soon it was time we left once more to find our way to the Albert Memorial.
Thomas found the memorial with ease. It was so much more magnificent than I had thought, looking at pictures online:
It was gilded with gold:
with gorgeous statues at each corner:
Isn’t it beautiful:
Lillie had to help Charlotte up to the top of the stairs for their photos:
The guys and the Albert Memorial:
Directly opposite the Albert Memorial was the very well known Albert Hall, and this is where we begun the next part of our trek around London. At this point the children had been to London Victoria Station, the Sherlock Holmes Museum at 221b Bakers Street and the Albert Memorial. Three well known Victorian buildings, five more to go.
Fourth Leg of the Journey: Albert Memorial to the Victoria and Albert Museum
Lillie was in charge of this stretch, although she did not have to go far to find the Albert Hall as it was situated directly opposite the Albert Memorial:
We took the obligatory photo of the children in front of it:
And then left them to wander off to find the Natural History Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum:
I was completely enchanted by the curves of the Albert Hall, and snapped away:
Even the flats opposite were similarly curved:
The children found their way to the science museum:
And the Natural History Museum next door. At this point they were beginning to tire, and Charlotte’s knees were particularly painful:
It was hard to get a decent picture of the Natural History Museum on account of the road works which were going on directly outside, but I did my best 🙂
Then it was onwards to the Victoria and Albert Museum:
Charlotte asked to be excused from being in charge of the next leg which would take us to Westminster Pier, where we would be catching a tour boat for a long anticipated trip down (or maybe up) the Thames. This was our treat to the children for doing such a great job this summer, and particular this day. Charlotte was almost at the point of giving up entirely, so we all took it in turns to carry bags and offer arms up and down the steps to the underground. We all encouraged her the best we could but the relief for her once we were on the boat was almost palpable. This is a girl who has a permanent grin on her face, so this picture really does show just how much pain she was in 🙁 (and this was on high doses of pain killers):
Poor baby. I think we were all pleased to be out of the mid day heat of the center of London and on a quiet boat away from the crowds, with the wind blowing through our hair:
Here are a few of the photos I took during the boat trip:
Houses of Parliament:
Cleopatra’s Needle and the Savoy:
Wooden model of 1666 London to be set alight:
See pictures of it alight here
St Paul’s Cathedral
Vintners (Wine Merchants) Hall
Tower of London
Last Leg: St Catherine’s Pier to The Ragged School Museum
This was Thomas’ last chance at leadership, although as we had decided to go by taxi on account of Charlotte’s knees, all he had to do was hail one. This was harder than it sounded, so in the end he asked me to do it for him and he would watch. I taught the children to only ever hail one of the traditional London Black Cab. We were at the Ragged School Museum in minutes for the grand price of £14. No doubt about it. If I were rich, I would only travel by taxi cabs 🙂
I will be doing a separate post on this, but here a couple of photos of the fun we had inside:
After we had finished, we bought the younger girls some slate and chalk and wandered to the nearby underground, picking up some stronger painkillers for Charlotte on the way 🙁
As we walked away, I took one last look…
Fortunately the underground journey was long and without any changes so it gave us half an hour rest. Here is the very last photo of the day of the children leaving the underground at Victoria station to get the train home. Very, very tired and some very sore, but all very happy and so very pleased at all they had accomplished.
The best part of the day? Thomas saying that he never realised how blessed he was to live so close to London and that he would now feel confident enough to come up to London alone or with friends. There. That is why we did this whole exercise. To build up the children’s competence and therefore their confidence to do things they thought were beyond their reach. Opening up their worlds for all God has for them. Gary and I were very proud parents.