Back in September it was Barry’s 40th birthday and as a surprise I booked us a child free weekend in London. I booked the train, the hotel and tickets to see Brian and Robin’s Christmas Compendium (a science and comedy show) at the Hammersmith Apollo. Since Toby was born nearly five and a half years ago we have had precisely two nights away as a couple. The first was when I was pregnant with Gabe and the second was in June this year when we spent one night in a hotel 20 minutes down the road from where we live. So it’s safe to say we were looking forward to it!
Of course the best laid plans of mice and men and all that…
The boys were all prepped for the idea that Grandma and Grandad were coming to look after them for the weekend. Barry had booked half a day off work. We were all set. And then on Wednesday Gabe didn’t want to eat his tea. That’s not that unusual, although he can usually be persuaded to eat at least a little bit. Anyway, I took Toby off to his swimming lesson as normal, but when we got back I noticed Barry’s socks in the hall.
When I asked him why they were there he informed me it was because he ‘stood in Gabe’s sick’. Oh good. Still it was only Wednesday, plenty of time for him to recover by the weekend.
He was sick a few more times that evening, and had it coming out of the other end too. I ended up sleeping on the sofa bed in our living room with him, with the bucket and potty right next to us. He seemed a bit better on Thursday and wasn’t sick again, and Toby was fine and so went off to school.
On Friday Toby had an inset day so wasn’t in school, Gabe should have been at his swimming lesson in the morning but we had to miss it because of him being ill on Wednesday. My mum and dad came round ready for Barry and I to leave to catch the train in the early afternoon. All was well, until 10 minutes before we had to leave when Gabe was sick again, all over the living room carpet!
We decided to go to London anyway. It was all booked and paid for and would have been such a shame to miss it so off we went leaving the boys in the capable hands of my parents. I had lunch on the train because I’d been too busy to have it at home. I then had a little nap, and I did feel a bit grotty when I woke up but thought it was just because I’d eaten on the train and then been sat there for two hours without moving.
I felt OK as we made our way to the hotel, but still had a bit of a stomach ache. I thought a lie down for half an hour had helped so we headed out to get some dinner. We were staying in a Premier Inn hub on Brick Lane so went to Spitalfields Market but the smells of all the different foods were just making me nauseous so we went back to the hotel.
Within half an hour I had been sick but felt much better after it was out. Barry went out to get himself a sandwich and still felt fine until he tried to go to sleep. Then you guessed it… he was sick too. Honestly, we waited 5 years for this and we were both ill, you couldn’t make this stuff up!
We slept until 10 the next morning and although we weren’t feeling great we decided we need to make the most of our weekend so set off to explore.
We walked down from our hotel down to Tower Bridge. There are Christmas Markets all over London at the moment and the first one we came across was just over the bridge on the south side of the river. The market was lovely – but full of very delicious looking food that neither of us felt like eating!
We walked along the river, over London Bridge and then happened upon the replica of Sir Francis Drake’s ship, The Golden Hinde. Just round the corner were the remains of Winchester Palace – it’s things like this that are the reason I love walking round London, there’s always something to see that you would never know was there if you were always underground on the Tube.
A bit further along the river and my mum called to let me know how they were getting on back home. It turned out Toby had been sick in the night too, although he was feeling much better by lunch time and had managed to eat some toast.
And speaking of lunch we were both starting to feel the need for a hot cuppa and a sit down – we weren’t so sure about food but decided to chance eating something. We headed into the Tate Modern – firstly to the café and then to have a look at some art. I enjoyed a cup of tea and an oat and raisin cookie, but I have to confess I wasn’t such a fan of the modern art. I just don’t get it… I don’t understand how a giant yellow triangle on the wall is art! Anyway, it was still interesting to have a look around and get in out of the cold and drizzle for a bit.
From the Tate Modern we walked further along the South Bank, through more of the Christmas Markets with more of the delicious looking food, past the London Eye (which bizarrely I can’t actually remember if I’ve been on or not), and as far as Westminster Bridge.
Throughout the day I had been updating my Instagram Stories with pictures of all the landmarks we were seeing, and the message ‘Still not sick!’ I think my followers were very invested in our well-being because I think I had more views and messages that day than I’d ever had before! And incidentally I didn’t take any other pictures all day so the ones in this post are all from my Stories.
We certainly managed to pass plenty of landmarks through the day. After crossing Westminster Bridge and passing the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, we walked up Parliament Street, past Downing Street (and some sort of climate change protest), and up to Trafalgar Square.
Our destination was the National Portrait Gallery. After another welcome sit down and cuppa in the café we headed up to the top floor to start looking around. Most of the top two floors are portraits of Royals and other important folks, starting with the Tudors and working their way through the ages right up to the present day. I’m a bit rubbish with all the kings and queens and what order they came in and who was related to who. It was really interesting to see all the portraits and find out a bit more about it all.
After a good few hours in the National Portrait Gallery it was almost time to make our way to Hammersmith for the show we had some to see. We walked to the tube station via another Christmas market, this time in Leicester Square. I was feeling much better by this point so actually managed some of the delicious food in the form of some mini Dutch pancakes. If you’re near a Christmas market I can highly recommend them.
We arrived at the Hammersmith Apollo at about 6:30 pm, and after a quick chat with Robin Ince while he signed the copy of his book we’d just bought, we went and found our seats. Brian and Robin’s Christmas Compendium is a sort of hybrid comedy and science show hosted by Robin Ince and Brian Cox. I went to one of its early incarnations as Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People at the Bloomsbury theatre back in 2009 with an eclectic mix of guests so I was keen to see who would be on the bill.
As it turned out there wasn’t anyone massively well known (apart from Orbital who came on to play the final set of the night) but it was a lot of fun. Some of the science went over my head a bit, and some of the comedian’s weren’t really my cup of tea but on the whole it was a great night and I’m really glad we went.
So, despite neither of us feeling very well, we had walked over 12 km during the day, with very little food and so we were definitely ready for our bed when we got back to the hotel not long after midnight. And we definitely needed the solid 10 hours sleep that we managed to get! We were both feeling, if not completely recovered, then certainly much better by Sunday morning. We finished off our trip with a wander round Spitalfields market and then a massive brunch at The Diner. Pancakes with bacon, eggs and maple syrup definitely perked me up, and the chocolate shake from Ed’s Easy Diner at Euston confirmed my recovery!
After another easy train ride (it’s only just over two hours from London to Preston) we got home to the boys at about 4 pm. They were both feeling better too, and miraculously my mum and dad both managed to completely avoid catching the sickness bug themselves! And if they can cope with a weekend like that, with two poorly boys, I reckon they can cope with anything…. Which leaves me thinking, when can we book our next trip?!