Natural History Museum

Summer holiday activities.

Now seems as good a time as any to look back at the summer holidays.

I’ve really enjoyed this break with the cubs. I managed to secure 3 week’s leave, so between me and their mum we had most of the holiday covered.

In that time, we incorporated my birthday and youngest cubs 4th.

I’m rambling…

This is a short review of one of their favourite places to visit, the Natural History Museum in London.

Getting there.

We usually catch the train into London. It’s an adventure, and they love it.

This time we drove. None of us really enjoyed that so next time we’ll make sure the train takes the strain.

Where are the dinosaurs?

The government made a great call years ago in making the museums free to visit (even a broken clock is right twice a day.. 😉)

They’re such great education centres for enquiring minds and open the door to so many questions.

There was only ever one question.

Where are the dinosaurs?

The architecture of the NHM is breathtaking. The immediate neighbourhood is home to the Science Museum, the Victoria and Albert Museum, several colleges and a string of  embassies. As you would expect, there are tourists aplenty, and its lovely to expose the cubs to so many languages.

NHM

Where are the dinosaurs?

We come in the side entrance, missing the modern normality of a bag search, as I’m not carrying anything.

Both cubs stand in silence; one by the huge skeleton of a planet, which is being fed people via an escalator; he is mesmerised by the skeleton of a stegosaurus.

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Where are the other dinosaurs?

The multilevel museum takes you through the ages and around the world.

I try my very best to introduce them to magma flow and tectonic plates with talk of volcanos and earthquakes, plus the planet spits out and consumes new islands constantly along fault lines, but they’re not convinced.

Can we go?

The ultimate goal is to see the dinosaurs. We follow a route that takes us through a multitude of stuffed animals, including the heads of various birds.

Eldest cub is fascinated at first, then the colour slowly drains from her face.

‘Did they kill those birds dad?’

I think some probably died of other causes but I guess you can’t rule it out.

Her brother takes immediate action to cheer her up in the best way he knows how; he sticks his bottom out, turns around and walks backwards towards her, rubbing his butt on her leg. I manage to intervene just as he goes to undo his trousers.

We stop at 3 stuffed models of a dodo. I take the opportunity to point out that they’re extinct, despite her grandmere (mother’s side of course) convincing her that dodos are alive and well on an island somewhere.

I digress…

Where are the dinosaurs?

They’re getting tired now. Apart from toilet breaks we’ve been on the move for two hours.

She wanes first. He’s still driven by the desire to see the dinos.

We enter the great hall, where only recently, the famous Diplodocus has been replaced by the skeleton of a blue whale. Its pretty impressive.

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Is it worth it?

Let’s face it; you’re hard pressed to beat a free attraction, especially one as well presented as the NHM.

It’s an expanse of learning, well stocked and easy to navigate. Even the multitude of gift shops are unobtrusive, offering a great range of visit mementos.

We didn’t eat on site today but if memory serves, it’s all quite reasonable for a family.

Negatives.

Hard pressed to think of any.

Take away thought.

The Harpy Eagle has talons comparable to the claws of a Brown Bear.

Things I’m thankful for.

There are no Harpy Eagles near me.

Ps. we saw the dinosaurs!

BSD

Easter Hols

And the cubs are off with Mum for the first half  of the holidays, then they’re back with me for the latter half.

She’s jam-packed activities for them which is great. I’m getting regular FaceTime updates.

A call comes in from the Jurassic coast; a great location and day out for budding adventurers.

“Daddy! Mummy got me this from the gift shop. It’s a mood ring!”

She thrusts her finger towards the screen.

“It says I’m despair but I’m not. I’m just tired”

Ok then.

tired out

BSD

Can you dig it? yes you can!

Day two of half term, and I’ve got this covered.

Proper planning has led me to have most of this holiday covered. As I’ve stated before (probably to myself to be fair) proper planning prevents poor performance. Anyway, last week I found out that our local museum was hosting a fossil event, where for a small fee participants could engage in some palaeontology.

Right up my daughter’s street and my son is happy to play along too.

Being a proper planner, I allow an hour for us to get there. It’s a 5 minute drive so we’re stupidly early; oh well.

A quick wander around in the bleak mid-winter to find a cash-point sees us pretty happy to be back indoors and wandering around the museum. 30 minutes to go. You enter the museum through the gift shop; nice one folks; I see what you did there.

As we queue, my youngest slowly rotates, next to a display of plates and glass ornaments. I put a stop to that.

There’s a guy upstairs sitting behind a table of fossils so we stop for a chat.

He’s fascinating and has a real enthusiasm for what he’s doing. She’s enthralled. He eyes the gentleman up suspiciously, as only my boy cub can, and keeps his distance.

We’re reliably informed that there are more goodies downstairs, so we head for adventure, headlong into a cafe.

Nice going museum; I see what you did there. The fatal attraction of a fridge full of cakes draws them both in and they turn to look at me.

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What came over me?

Not sure what I was thinking, I let them choose whatever they want. She goes for a modest slice of cheesecake whilst he opts for a slice of chocolate cake. Not like the one above; oh no. there was no strawberry on his choice. Instead, the chocolate cake he chose was bedecked with sugar-coated sweets; the kind I bought for a penny in my childhood. It was almost as if the creator wasn’t satisfied with the sugar content of the plain chocolate cake, then decided to push the tooth rotting factor up to 11.

I bought it anyway as we had 20 minutes to kill.

I decided to share the cake with him, convinced that he would struggle with the volume and richness. I underestimated him. I think I had one or two forkfuls, but tired of the battle to wrestle it away from him after the second attempt.

To his credit, he managed to funnel about 90% into his head with 5% spread around his face. The other 5% appears later.

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And we’re in!

I hadn’t imagined quite how popular the event would be. One minute we were alone, the next we were awash with parents and children. It was nice to see so many people out and about and the collective excitement level was contagious.

There were four stations for enquiring minds to visit; an expert, a mask making station, a microscope bench and a simulated dig. I thought the latter looked like two cat litter trays but I kept that to myself.

They were straight in; the added bonus being that they could keep one of the fossils that they found. Four fossils each later (in quite a short time) we discussed the lesson of sharing and leaving some for others whilst reburying their three least favourite.

Advancing to the bench of microscopes for a close up of some minerals we queued behind a three deep moving mass of buggies and bodies. This was very popular, but not with us. As she has three microscopes at home, we decided to show our fossils to the expert upstairs and create some masks.

Home run

He was busy. I really underestimated this. No matter; we went to the masks. One Triceratops (her) and a T-rex (him).

With crayon, felt-tip, marker pen and glue stick it took an absolute age for them to colour in their choices. For reasons known only to her, she decided to use the finest tipped pen to embolden her creation. He was a bit more pragmatic and broad-stroked a fisted crayon across his picture. Not surprisingly he was finished in no time. She slumped further in her chair when I told her that she would have to do the other side too.

Staples, glue, elastic and a healthy dose of imagination later and the cubs were transformed into whatever dinosaur young are called. Happy.

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Unnoticed, we’ve spent two hours here. It’s been brilliant.

As we get up to leave, she notices a thick brown stain on the bum and leg of his beige trousers. She recoils and points all at once but before she can comment, I run my finger along the stain and then pop it in my mouth. I turn and tell her..

We have to go now; he’s done a poo.

I thought she was going to faint.

I do like chocolate cake.

BSD

Half term

‘Calamity Jane has anger issues’

According to my eldest cub.

‘She nearly shot someone in the cheek!’

I couldn’t disagree.

It had always been a favourite film of mine having had it forced upon me as a child by my parents. As such, when she came home singing about The Deadwood Stage, I gladly joined in.

She was surprised and happy, so all three of us had a singsong comprising of the words that we could remember.

We were even more surprised to find that in packing their bag for the week, their mum had included a DVD of the movie, still in the wrapper. On it went.

It had been a pretty uneventful day thus far and I was feeling sluggish as a result of an 05:45 start courtesy of my youngest.

During the week of half term, I had planned to alternate a day at home and a day out somewhere just to keep things balanced. A mix up earlier this month by the authorities had left me with bingo cash for the remainder of the month. I’d known things were going to be tight so I’d planned some cheap and cheerful activities to fill out time.

First things first, we indulged in a bit of housekeeping. During home day yesterday, the youngest cub decided to investigate and distribute a pack of loom bands around his sister’s room.

I don’t recall how much I paid for the pack of loom bands, but there seem to be roughly 4.5 million on the floor so I guess I got good value for money. 

Luckily, she had the great idea of using the vacuum cleaner, once the cylinder was emptied so it actually became a non-issue.

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Out of all the plans I’d had in my head today, we opted for the park in our old village. It’s a firm favourite and never disappoints.

The eldest clambered aboard her favourite apparatus; the death slide. The youngest watched as she whizzed past, whooping with joy.

He wanted some of the action. 

They decided to both get on.

Initially, they asked me for help; but as I’m keen for  them to develop independence, I told them to figure it out.  I find that the rewards that come with hard work are so much sweeter and I hope to evolve that in them too.

Success

Both on, they had their first slide. Judging by the screams, it was everything they’d hoped for.

They sprinted back to the launch for round two. Their arrangement looked a little precarious but not wanting to be a helicopter parent, I stood back. The ground was covered in lovely, soft wood chips and pine so they wouldn’t come to harm even if they did have a spill.

Then, as with most human endeavour, confidence outweighed competence. Hands were coming off the slide in motion to wave in joy.

As they hit the stop, the halted motion whilst dampened, was enough to eject both passengers inverted.

She landed across her shoulders and neck; he, on top of her, landing on his face. Cue tears.

And mild concussion.

They’re fine.

calamity

I do not own the image above.

BSD

Saturday’s adventure.

They wanted Seaworld. I wanted outdoors; the weather was too nice.

I did a quick search of places to visit with kids and up popped Millet’s Farm in Oxfordshire. We’d been before for various reasons but on this occasions their falconry centre caught my eye.

My eldest wants to be an explorer and as such, she is already a keen naturalist. My youngest likes Angry Birds and in particular ‘Mighty Eagle’  so win win.

Wrong

I herded them across the car-park and towards the separate entrance to the Falconry Centre.

In a touch of Pied Piper marketing genius, I had to walk them through a well resourced, adventure playground, a trampoline park and a merry-go-round to get to the entrance. By the time we had got there, sparks were coming off of the heels of the youngest and he was on the edge of tears.

Luckily, this was the view from the cash-desk..

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The bigger of the two birds, which I initially thought was a Golden Eagle, turned out to be a juvenile Bald (Mighty) Eagle.

A quick ‘Hey guys; look through there…’ soon gave rise to gasps of excitement. We went in. As is now the norm, the eldest got to take the photos, apart from the video below, where I tried desperately to catch the Eagle’s cry..

It turned away at the precise moment.

They have a dazzling array of Birds of Prey, including Owls and you can get quite close to them.

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My daughter got a little too close to this one; the resulting warning cry stopped her in her tracks.

She once stroked a Swan when we went to feed the ducks when she was three. It was pretty startled but as it was bigger than her and she had bread in her other hand, she was tolerated.

I’ll have to train that out of her before she starts encountering bigger animals.

They also have some other animals, such as Raccoons and Meerkats and we stood and watched a family have a close encounter with them (at extra cost).

The keepers were very knowledgeable and happy to answer questions.

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This Boobook Owl was on his way back from the flying field when this keeper got papped and then quizzed. It’s a lovely looking creature that has that look like it has just overheard the most profane of words.

boobook

file pic

As with any zoological institution, there was the question of morality. As we walked around some of the birds were naturally startled and flew to the furthest reaches of their aviaries, only to be met by netting.

To Millet’s credit, all of the birds looked healthy and the whole place was meticulously clean. Their conservation statement can be viewed here and what they write is promising. The decline in some species in the UK is worrying.

All in all, this centre is well worth a visit and pretty good value for money too. Even with one ride for all of us on the Carousel, the whole day cost just under £30.

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I’ve no idea what this is; the sign fell over.

BSD

This is not a sponsored post.

Blueprint for a grand day out.

We’re halfway through the summer break..

and I’m intent on making great memories for the cubs. As a boy, one of my favourite pastimes was fishing. I kept it up into adulthood even though I rarely make time for it nowadays.

I love the peace and tranquility beside a river or lake; being near water seems to wash my troubles away. I want to share that feeling and memories with them, so for my daughter’s birthday I bought her a junior fishing kit. She was ecstatic.

Balance

I had noticed her watching fishing programs beforehand, and it seemed to fit in with her desire to be outdoors. I leant her a couple of my fishing books, so she could learn a few techniques and some of the different types of fish. The questions weren’t far behind.

How do you catch them? how do they stay on the line? do you eat them? does it hurt them?’

I watched her face go through several emotions as I answered her, then she thought about it for a bit.

OK

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Rite of passage

There was no way on the Lord’s sweet earth that I was going to teach her to fish and keep a safe eye on the youngest cub on the waterfront so mum came along too. We made a picnic for good measure and off we trotted.

I explained to her that when daddy goes fishing, set up can take hours. ‘First you have to find a likely spot, then you have to….‘ I turned around and she had wandered off. The youngest had found a feather from a Buzzard and this was much more interesting.

I managed to get her back and we set up. She only got pricked by a hook once and was a little reluctant to bait up but she got on with it.

I taught her how to cast…

The bait sailed into the water and the bodycount stayed at 0. Success.

How long before I get a fish?

Well that’s the art my dear! you have to be…’

Her float dipped under the water.

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Unfortunately our adventure was a short one. This was only a taster session to whet her appetite and it had done just that.

My fish was bigger than yours dad!’

It wasn’t.

BSD