So let me start by saying, I have no particular affiliation with Princess Diana. I think she had a hard life but I was no sadder when she died than when any other celebrity dies (except Freddie Mercury). I was mainly sad that my Uncle Phil couldn’t take me up in a glider like we’d planned because the airfield was closed. I was 16. And maybe self-centred.
What I do have a strong affiliation with are nice play areas (as you may have already gathered). I haven’t yet visited the memorial playground but I will do in the near future. And I also have an affiliation with being able to paddle on a hot day. This last one clearly isn’t shared by Lambeth Council, who ignored the heatwave last week and stuck to their plans to switch water play areas on this bank holiday weekend. Which, in case you didn’t notice, was a bit of a washout. Sigh.
So, no paddling pools in Lambeth or Causton Street. What’s a girl to do? Go for some long-overdue princess mourning, naturally…
This was not my first visit to the Diana Memorial Fountain. Oh no. The first time I hung out there was on my friend’s hen do. As Best Woman, I had organised the whole thing to suit me and my then-not-quite-a-toddler (he took some of his first steps during the scouting visit). All-night clubbing was out, picnics in Hyde Park were in. It’s OK – if you knew her, you’d understand this was what she wanted… I choose the fountain as a handy place to picnic as it was close to the boating (part 1 of the hen do) and also the Serpentine Lido (an essential part of part 3, when she completed a “henathalon”. Honestly, if you knew her, this would all make sense….). Only two problems, Firstly, you can’t drink within the bounds of the fountain, and we had a bucketful of Pimms. This was brought to our attention by the fairly zealous FountainGuardPeople. Secondly, it was tipping it down. In August. So, the hen’s resourceful male friends erected a gazebo. Again, the FountainGuardPeople took exception to this. I maintain, there is no mention of gazebos on the “Rules of the Fountain” board. And the “no alcohol” symbol was a wine glass. Any sane person would take that as “no glass”, right?! A sensible suggestion around a fountain! Hence the plastic beakers and the bucket…..anyhoo, the net result was that we moved just outside the fence surrounding the fountain, to the part where the FountainGuardPeople had no jurisdiction. All involved were happy with the result, Incidentally, inviting male hens (aka “mens”) is a great idea. They bring gazebos and stuff!
Needless to say, this latest visit was less rowdy. In a way. The website implied that walking around the fountain was not allowed, so I was terrified of falling foul of the FountainGuardPeople again, and having to tell the toddler that he could look but not paddle. All through the veeeery long walk through the park, I was steeling myself for it, but my fears were unfounded. Every other family in London had the same idea (maybe cause all the paddling pools were empty?) and when we got there, there were hundreds of children splashing about happily.
Of course, experienced readers will guess what happened next. Roo had been napping in his buggy during the epic journey there and woke up next to the fountain. When asked if he wanted to play, what did he say? “No fanks”.
After a walk, a bus and another half hour’s walk? Ah, sod ya then! Luckily it was a Saturday and Nathan was with us, so I left sleepy boy with him and I took Eva in the sling, to dip our feet. Well, just my feet really. She was asleep too.
But there’s a happy ending. Somehow, Nathan persuaded Roo to first take his shoes off and paddle, and then change into his wetsuit for full-on water play. By then, Eva had woken up yowling for a feed, so I fed her in the shade of the tree and watched them play. Oh, how the tables have turned Mr Bond….
Eventually, baby was fed and asleep again and toddler was not yet bored. So I got an hour or so of splashing about with Roo and Nathan (Eva way out of the action in the sling) and it was grand. Really lovely. The fountain is huge and is a loop of granite, with two currents running down from the top. Along the way, the depth changes to provide shallower and deeper parts, textured and smooth bits, faster and slower flowing bits. The whole loop took around ten minutes to walk, so we could have wasted hours there. You can climb in and out at any point, and there were three bridges to cross onto the grassy island in the middle. The only time the FountainGuardPeople tried to stop us doing anything was on one circuit, where one guy stopped anyone climbed up a little, ridged waterfall. Every other time round, Nathan and Roo clambered up it freely. I climbed out at that point cause I didn’t fancy doing it with a baby. Just in case…
The whole thing was very safe for paddling, on the whole. The ridged granite made it hard to slip and the current was never too fast or too deep for a toddler. Hence me being very happy paddling round with Roo AND a 3-week old. The ridges do make your feet hurt for a bit though.
So, overall a big hit. Roo was distraught to have to leave, but his Godmother was cooking us a BBQ, so we had to go. Naturally, we resorted to bribing him with an ice-cream from the stand outside the Lido. Naturally, on the hottest day of the year, in London’s most famous park there was only one person serving. Sigh. Eva and I queued for half an hour, while Roo and Nathan studied the duckies of the Serpentine, but the raspberry yoghurt ice-cream was worth it.