Bethnal Green-on-Sea and Museum of Childhood 17/08/11

I love the seaside. I really do. I once had a project where I had to go to the seaside once a month for a year. I love it that much. And you probably won’t get me blogging about the seaside in London cause really..there aren’t any. Attempts to find a “beach really near London” will land you on the Isle of Sheppey during carnival time. You have been warned. I am going to Wales at the end of this week, where I hope to find seaside-age of some description so I can bask in the 17c heat but that’s definitely not London. I may do some kind of LWAT field trip special blog but then again I might not.

The point? The connection to the photo of a giant tiger above? Well you’d hope there was one of each of these.

And you’d be right! The connection is Bethnal Green, E2. Unlikely? Maybe. Inevitable, given the blog post title? Yes. Tower Hamlets were today hosting a “Bethnal Green-on-Sea” day, where the park adjacent to Bethnal Green tube was magically transformed into a seaside. You could see what they were trying to do, but the beach elements – i.e. a couple of small sandpits and a paddling pool – were a bit on the disappointing side, while the good (and free!) stuff – donkey rides, ice cream, teacup rides, helter skelter – all had queues as long as the Central Line. Including that loopy bit around Hainault. So, we didn’t linger on the beachfront for long and there was almost no tiddly-om-pom-pomming. Reuben did enjoy the Punch and Judy show but there’s something about the squeaky voices and gratutious violence that grates on the adult palate. Think Spud from Bob the Builder doing Reservoir Dogs.

Luckily, we had a Plan B in the form of the ever-excellent Museum of Childhood. Reuben’s friend Jake is a local boy so often hangs out there, and we were honoured to be invited to what is surely the coolest place in East London (take THAT Shoreditch!).

We are slowly but surely moving towards the giant tiger picture above. On level 2 of the Museum, they were hosting a retrospective of the work of Judith Kerr – she of “The Tiger who came to Tea” and “Mog” fame. She also wrote “When Hitler stole Pink Rabbit”, which I remember reading school. It almost made me cry because it was so close to my own Grandmother’s experience in 1930s Germany. The exhibition includes a life-size tiger (or bigger than life-size? How big are tigers anyway? I’m always surprised at the size of them in zoos as you’d expect the lions to be the biggest but no….) and a kitchen set up with play food, pans and giant foam tins of “Tiger Food” (on Reuben’s head, above). It was a lot of fun. The “Mog” section had cat costumes, a giant cat basket, different “Mog” facial expressions and a magnets game where you could mix and match bits from her different characters. It was all decorated with original illustrations from her book, including the upsetting final book – “Goodbye Mog”. Published when I was 20, so not surprising that I missed that one in the series but MOG DIES! It’s a bit of a shock to find this out after all these years…. (since I was reading the books, not so many years since I was 20. Cheeky beggars.)

The rest of the museum was pretty good as well. I went there with Roo once before about a year ago so he didn’t quite appreciate it as much then. Now, he played with the garage with Jake for a long time, both behaving beautifully. The fact that they were supposed to be in the cafe eating their lunch is neither here nor there. While we’re on it, the cafe is nice but a bit pricey. I had macaroni cheese, which was lovely, for a fiver and Roo had a kids meal deal for £5.50 which included sandwich (and he ate some of it voluntarily! Shocker!), grapes, nice apple juice and a mini muffin. Naturally I scoffed the muffin on the way home when he wasn’t looking. He’ll never know. Mmm, muffin…

Where was I? Ah yes, he also played intently with the duplo table for a loooong time – about half an hour, which in toddler time is about a week. I should probably get him some more duplo. I amused myself by looking at the children’s fashions display, which showed the changing styles of children’s clothes through the ages. Why do we not live in an era when Reuben could wear a sailor suit?! And I also browsed round the displays of toys from yesteryear – three of which I had as a child and are still at my parents’ house. How old am I that my childhood toys are in a museum?! (not that much over 2o…as discussed previously).

This toy! I had this EXACT toy! With the Saint Bernard on it!

And therein lies the joy of the Museum of childhood. While it’s fun for the kids, it’s also a big nostalgia trip for the adults.  Kinda like those pub conversations where you talk about kids TV from the 80s, only without the alcohol and nobody feels like they need to sing the Thundercats theme tune.

Thundercats?! Get a grip woman! The good people want to know what else is at the Museum of Childhood before you hit a thousand fricking words!

OK, so here’s a run-down – model police car with steering wheel and police hats (big hit), indoor sandpit (better than the soggy one outside), convenient deckchairs next to the sandpit, a DIY Punch and Judy booth with glove puppets (Roo both loved doing the glove puppets and watching bigger kids do it better than he could), a jukebox and dancefloor (jukebox not working today),  a stimulation area with lights that changed colour depending on which panel you pressed, mask-making (guessing this is school hols only), dressing up, rocking horses and a tempting-looking gift shop.

And “gift” was word 1000. You have done well if you’ve got this far. You did well if you got past my seaside ramblings at the beginning. Go to the Museum of Childhood.

VERDICT: Yes, it’s in East London. But that’s OK. So much for toddlers to do and all for freeeee. Lovely.

More details here (official website)

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9 Responses to Bethnal Green-on-Sea and Museum of Childhood 17/08/11

  1. heartful says:

    Yeah, I’ve always found Spud super creepy. The Reservoir Dogs thing totally fits.

    And whaddya mean “it’s in East London. But that’s ok” It IS cooler than Shoreditch!
    The photo of the Tiger Food tin on Roo’s head did make me chortle so!! Brilliant! (Oh and I think calling the sand in the park a sandpit was probably overstating it. It was more like a plate of sand that even a crab wouldn’t have fit on?!)

  2. katese11 says:

    The East London bit was just to bait you 😉 . And some other people I know who are all “Ooh, I’m so ironic cause I live in Dalston”. Good point re the sandpit. Would sandsquaremetre be more appropriate?

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