National Railway Museum

Last week being half-term, there were more entertainment options than usual for my two days of the week at home with G. On Thursday, swayed by a leaflet Mrs J had picked up somewhere, I decided to take G across the Pennines to York, for her (and my) first-ever visit to the National Railway Museum.

I was a bit apprehensive about this. York is, after all, a good hour-and-a-half away by train, which makes it a three-hour round trip. That's nothing if you're in the car in the evening and G can snooze away in the back seat, but trying to keep her entertained for that length of time, without becoming That Guy With The Annoying Toddler, looked a more challenging prospect.

As it was, the journey over was fine. We had a table to ourselves, and when she wasn't staring wistfully out of the window (as shown in the picture above), she kept herself amused by pointing out all the things she could see. Despite having lived near the Standedge Tunnel for a couple of years, she was completely baffled by it when the train passed through ("We're in a tunnel daddy! Why?"). Eventually, she gave up trying to make sense of the outside world and started playing hide-and-seek, which was about as successful as it normally is.

We got there, and the museum being helpfully located right next to the station, we were soon here. I let G wander off to explore a bit.
Along with all the old trains, there were various child-friendly activities on offer, which helped explain the rather unusual museum clientele which seemed to consist entirely of retired folks who like to trainspot, and under 8s. One of these was a model Thomas The Tank Engine display. As G pushed her nose up against the glass, the woman said to the children assembled: "Look, there's a blue engine down there, that's Thomas". G replied, insistently: "No, that's Thomas over there, he's got the number one on him!" I think at G's age that still counts as cute rather than irritatingly brattish, but I accept it's a close call.

We looked at other trains, both model and real, and rode on a steam train (green, so inevitably, "Percy") in the goods yard. The BBC's Thomas rival, Chuggington, was also well represented. Once G saw the play area full of various Chuggington track and trains, I had to write off the next part of the afternoon.
With time before our return train ticking by, the only way to get G to leave was to promise to buy her something from the museum shop on the way out. "I want Annie and Clarabel!" she announced within about 1.7 seconds of browsing the toys (keen observers will know that they are Thomas's coaches).

And so her wooden train set at home is now busier than ever. But considering she had been beautifully behaved all day, and the museum only cost a £3 donation to get into, I'd say investing in a couple of little carriages was a small price to pay.

Shaky Ladder

Mrs J was away last weekend, so it was just me and G on Saturday and Sunday. Not that this is particularly unusual, given that I've looked after her for the last three-and-a-half years, and still have her at home with me a couple of days a week. But when you've got to stretch solo toddler entertaining to an extra couple of days, you have to ration your standard activities out slightly.

On Saturday morning, I took her dancing. This was the first time I'd been, and predictably enough I was the only dad in an ante-room of 15 or so mums, waiting around for our children to do their ballet class next door. Not that I could really hear what was going on, the overwhelming noise from another neighbouring room was of a group of eight-year-olds learning how to street dance to the Macarena. I don't think I'd heard the Macarena since about 1996, and it seemed pretty old hat to me even then. So goodness knows what today's pre-tweenies make of it. Perhaps it's this generation's Agadoo.

I decided to save a playground trip for Sunday, not least because the forecast was good. And it turned out to be beautifully sunny. Sunny enough in fact to take along G's bike, which she rode very slowly along the path to the playground in Parr Fold Park. This was clearly far too much like hard work, and she bounded off and ran towards the big climbing frame as soon as we got near it.

Then she stopped, puzzled as how to actually get up. Possibly aimed at slightly older children, the only ways onto the frame itself were via a couple of shaky rope ladders, which G didn't much like the look of at first glance. I encouraged her up one, step by step, lifting her foot up each time while supporting her back. Eventually, she scrambled up, slowly walked over to the slide, then came down. This was much more fun.

So much fun in fact, that she quickly forgot about any danger associated with going up the rope ladder, and trotted straight back to it, climbing up herself. She repeated this process about 38 times, briefly stopping once so I could take the photo of her peering back down at me. It all helped tire her right out, which as any parent will tell you, is always the most important thing.

Day Out On The Railway

We had a long weekend away in Shropshire from Friday to Monday. The destination was chosen partly because it's close to where we live and could be reached easily enough on a Friday evening, but largely because we we near the Llangollen Heritage Railway, which was holding a Thomas The Tank Engine day on Sunday.

I was quite looking forward to this, but G's excitement was on another level. Kind of like her birthday and Christmas put together. "Look, it's Thomas!" she shouted as we walked through the town to the station and saw an engine painted bright blue. It wasn't difficult to see why she was so impressed. With lots of noise and steam everywhere as he trundled up and down the track, he certainly bore a much stronger resemblance to what the real Thomas might look like than supermarket Santas do to Father Christmas.

Thomas was doing short rides up and down the station, but we also went on a longer journey on a different train. The picture shows G with it. Because of the vaguely green colour she immediately decided this was Percy, and did "choo choo" noises much of the way.

Trying to get G to leave at the end of the afternoon was a bit harder. Traditional inducements, in the form of a promise of a "special treat" or even some chocolate were met with a firm "no thank you". I told Mrs J to bring out the secret weapon: "If we leave now, we can go and get some ice cream" only to get another "Um... no thank you!" in reply.

So, there were inevitably some tears, but G had got over it by the time we walked across the road to the sweet shop. And, equally inevitably, she talked about Thomas all the way home.

Crumpet Sandwich

G has had a long-standing interest in crumpets, dating back almost to when she could first manage solid food. Ever since it's been a reliable snack food to serve up for her, even on the rare occasions when she throws a tantrum about something and says she won't eat anything.

These days, G is at an age where her independent streak makes her very specific about what she does and doesn't want. So, even the simple task of putting a couple of crumpets into the toaster for her has to be done in a particular order. She has to drag a chair across the room, stand on it, open the bread bin, and get the crumpets out. I'm allowed to actually put the crumpets in the toaster, but in the meantime she has to open the fridge door, point at the cheese triangles (it's almost always cheese triangles), which I then have to get. But she's got to open the little box, pick out the triangle she wants, then fiddle about with the little red cord until it opens. I then put the cheese onto the crumpets, and help her do the spreading. Then, finally, it's snack time.

Or at least it normally is. The other day, G kept on pointing at the crumpets, and asking for a "sandwich". I opened the bread bin to show her that there wasn't any bread, and that she was going to be having crumpets instead. "No daddy, like this," she said, and stuck one crumpet on top of the other, before biting into it. And so, the crumpet sandwich was duly invented. Or should that be discovered?