Art and Arctic


Sometimes you have to write a blog entry.

Other times you need to write a blog entry.

And sometimes you just want to write a blog entry.

Today, I’m glad to say, was the third.  It was a one-off middle-of-the-week looking-after-Millie-in-the-summer-holidays day – one of those dog-ends of the summer holidays.

But today reminded me of the times before the girls were even born when we imagined how inspirational being a parent would be.  If you have children or are thinking of having them then you probably know what I mean: in these fantasies you are infinitely patient, blessed with clever and happy children who are always polite and grateful, and whom you can do proper parenting things with.

Of course, it seldom works out like that.  My children are small and very funny, but they almost never appreciate the things you really hope they might.

Take museums, for example – great places, museums.

In my parenting dreams I would lead them round by the hand, answering their touchingly naive but insightful questions from my great store of adult wisdom.  Afterwards, they would thank me for condescending to answer their questions and remember this day forever more as The Day I Decided To Become An Archaeologist/Scientist/Famous Authority On Dinosaurs.

In reality, they run three times around the place at full speed, fall over, cry and then promptly forget everything they just saw, preferring to try and climb into a litter bin instead.

But today was a little miracle, in that our day that really lived up to those dreams.

First, we dropped Amber off at nursery.  Sorry for having to do this again, Amby, but this lone father had reviewed his plans for today and decided that it really wasn’t designed for defiant three-year-olds who currently attempt to run off and get lost at every available opportunity.

So we dropped Amber off at nursery.

Next, we got our chores out of the way – visiting the school uniform shop in Sidcup to stock up on back-to-school gear before killing two birds with one stone by jumping on a 286 – a bus that goes from Sidcup straight to Greenwich, our destination today.

That came jolly quickly and got us to Greenwich in about 35 minutes – during which Millie only asked me twice if she could play with my phone.  Most heroin addicts need drugs less than Millie needs to play on my phone – so this was the first sign of a good day.

We got to Greenwich about 11.30 and decided to go for lunch before anything else.  Millie hasn’t really done restaurants before.  She does cafes and the occasional fast food place, but restaurants are a mystery to her.  As are most types of “foreign” food.  Still, I thought it worth the risk – what the hell!  Let’s go for a “grown-up” lunch!

She was quite keen on trying both Chinese and Mexican food until she saw some pictures of them both.  Cakes were next suggested – and vetoed by me.  Fortunately, we walked past a tapas place that had just opened and which did children’s deals, not to mention a good price for adults, so we went in there.

Millie. Was. Amazed.  It was decorated in standard “Spanish” style, which fascinated her, the seats were comfortable and the bar had a roof over it – although, she couldn’t understand why there were stools for people to sit on there.

So we sat in there for about 40 minutes, marvelled at all the Spanish things, ate a nice dinner and I explained the entire concept of eating out.  Not once were the dreaded words “I’m bored” or “Why is it taking so looooong?” uttered.  Amazing!

Sad rabbit
Sad rabbit

Afterwards we strolled through Greenwich market, pausing only to buy a lovely hanging metal sculpture thingie for the garden and for Millie to get her face painted – as you can see – like a rabbit.

Why does she look so sad in this picture?  I have no idea.

Afterwards we went to the National Maritime Museum, which was our primary destination today. We’ve been there before, and it’s great, but today we were going to see an art installation called High Arctic.

That’s right.  I was taking a six-year-old to an art installation.

Having read about it in an email from the NMM I thought it sounded right up Millie’s street, and I’d been right about this kind of thing before (remember the Morris Dancing?)

Yes, OK –

a combination of sound, light and sculptural forms to create an abstracted arctic landscape for visitors to explore

might sound a bit daunting – and one of the assistants in the NMM did almost talk us out of going, until I remembered that this was:

An exhibition with no touchscreens, no static photographs, and no panels with text: instead High Arctic is a genuinely immersive, responsive environment. Ultraviolet torches unlock hidden elements, constantly shifting patterns of graphics and text that react to visitors approaching.

High Arctic from United Visual Artists on Vimeo.

So, we ignored all the advice and po-faced commentary, concentrating instead on the bit about UV torches, and I was so glad we did because it was fantastic.  I loved it and Millie, if anything, loved it even more.

Yep, six-year-olds and art installations aren’t necessarily a bad mix – sometimes they can bring about their own unique alchemy!

So we hung about in there for about 40 minutes, exploring and playing and discovering together.  I swear, even the gallery attendants were touched by mine and Millie’s enthusiasm – not least because Millie was once again so well-behaved.

I was very proud of her. 🙂

After that we joined in some of the more traditional children’s activities at NMM – spending half an hour making a beach scene from paper and foil and tissue paper and glue and, er, lolly sticks. 🙂

Then we caught the bus home.

And it’s a day that’s going to stay long in my memory because it was just perfect.  I wasn’t cross, Millie wasn’t impatient or demanding – we simply had a great day together doing things that we both enjoyed.

I found my previous lone childcare stint a little disappointing in that we didn’t really do anything amazing, but also because I lack the Lovely Melanie’s unyielding patience for both Millie and Amber’s games.  Much as I love them both, I don’t want to spend entire days of my adult life doing colouring or reading children’s books.

Which is why today was so special – we didn’t just do boring Daddy stuff and we didn’t just do boring Millie stuff, we did stuff that both of us really enjoyed, which – to bring this post full circle – reminded me of my old Hollywood-esque dreams of how great being a parent would be…

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