Return to the Walrus of Horniman

Come on Francesca, pay attention to the walrus!
After visiting the Walrus of Horniman in August, it was clearly high time to return in December for another showing. And by "showing", I mean "showing my daughters to the walrus by holding them up to its face in some strange ritual of large-aquatic-mammal-worship". Heaven knows what the staff make of a bearded man holding a three month old child over his head and leaning towards their prized exhibit.
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The Biggest Buffet In The Country

One of my wife’s friends had her birthday today, and we all went out to celebrate at Tenpin, a bowling alley over in Croydon in the retail park. Getting there was a bit of a mission; the roads to the retail park were clear, apart from the occasional idiot driver who didn’t understand how roundabouts work, but when we arrived at the car park it was almost completely full of cars queuing up to get in or out, because what better way to celebrate the day after the day after Christmas than by going out and buying a cheap sofa?

Tenpin isn’t just a bowling alley. There’s a pair of table tennis tables, there’s six or seven pool tables, and there’s the LOUDEST SELECTION OF VIDEO GAME MACHINES IN ALL OF CROYDON. La Serpiente loved the clanging, flashing, blinking, banging hullabaloo so much that at one point she ran off and hid, leaving her panicked parents to run around trying to find her for several minutes. They also have a bar that serves dreadful, watery lager, and no Guinness. (Unlike Lewisham Bowl, which has no more than two video game machines and some of the best Guinness in London, last time I checked (2006/7)). After several games of pool and no bowling, we had given La Serpiente enough audiovisual overload and it was time to go to dinner…
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Visits to the past

Today, I made two separate journeys to the past. One across 600 years, the other across no more than a decade.

This morning we went to Bodiam Castle. Bodiam is about ten miles from Hastings (scene of a historical battle in 1066, and latterly full of heroin addicts and video game arcades), in a valley surrounded by ducks. I’ve been several times (most recently in 2007 or so, with my friend Jenny, who was quite disappointed to find that inside it was a ruin, rather than full of tapestries and people drinking mead – I’m a cruel prankster) but this is the first time I remember there being a guided tour.

As a result, I gleaned new insight (for example, why the castle is where it is – it’s not in a strategic location and invaders could just detour around it, but as it was built by somebody who wanted to show off how rich he was, that was clearly less of a concern for him) and was also reminded of things I knew from elsewhere (like the fashion sense of knights). And now I know that Bodiam has three portcullises, which is particularly over the top given that Bodiam Castle was intended for partying rather than as a military fort.

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Unboxing day

My cold intensified overnight, and I compounded things by going up and sorting through some old boxes after breakfast, unleashing a cloud of dust as I disinterred old mortgage agreements, a camping stove, back issues of the Waitrose Food Magazine from 2004, a set of hair clippers and some old Tupperware. After that excitement, I wanted to just sit and wheeze for a while, or peruse the three year plan I wrote on the back of an envelope in 2005 and then lost in one of the many archive boxes that fill my life. (Fill it, or contain it, or both.)

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Christmas 2015

This was the first Christmas we’ve spent in England in years. In fact, when I reviewed all the previous Christmases in my blog (and here and here), I realised that the last time I was in England for Christmas was in 2008, before I even started dating my wife. Have we neglected another Christmas tradition we had, of not being in London at Christmas? (Not to mention not having La Serpiente’s tongue turn black, or watching Harold And Kumar’s Very 3D Christmas)

I’m coming down with a cold – probably a function of the ludicrous travel schedule I’ve had over the past month – which meant I felt a bit subdued this Christmas. We had a true embarassment of riches – La Serpiente and Destroyer both had sacks of presents from their grandparents that were bigger than they were, and even after a day of unwrapping we still have mounds of presents for them to open. I had a pretty good haul myself: lots of shirts, books and chocolate, and grooming equipment to keep my moustache in check, but La Serpiente had an avalanche of books, to the point that I think she’ll be three years old before we’ve worked our way through all of them.
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Getting reacquainted with the kids

After a 1am phone call this morning, I was pretty groggy. I woke about 9, had another call at 10, then got ushered into the garden to play with La Serpiente. Just as a chill wind began to blow and freezing rain poured down upon us. La Serpiente was quite happy though, because she had a trowel and could use it to flick mud all over her father as he stood there, clutching an umbrella and hoping he wouldn’t get blown away.

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