Saturdays when I was a lad mostly seemed to involve either hanging around leisure centres while my parents played netball and football, or staying round my Nan’s house while my parents played netball or football.

We were three brothers and it was just how Saturdays were. We explored and played and ran about the leisure centres of Swindon, running onto the pitch during half time and trying to cadge 8p for a cup of hot chocolate from the vending machine.

At my Nan’s we’d have a bonfire, teach Nan how to play computer games on our ZX Spectrum, explore the railway sidings at the bottom of her garden and help her check the football pools when the results came in (an important job since we were all going to Disneyland if she won).

Saturdays for our girls are quite different.

The Lovely Melanie and I aren’t interested in either playing or watching sport; we don’t live in Swindon; grandparents are quite a distance away, and no modern parents would let their children have an unsupervised bonfire!

Yesterday I found myself marvelling just how different the girls’ Saturdays are to my memories, after we caught the train into the centre (of London) and had a great time at the Royal Society, for their annual open day.

Crazy shades at the Royal Society
At the Royal Society

There were demonstrations, robots, talks on how science gives us “superpowers”, stunning holograms, mind-blowing augmented reality, a display of (justifiably!) award-winning photographs, lots of hands-on science displays, and all presented by really smart and nice people.

We expected it to be fun, hoped it might be inspirational – and weren’t disappointed. It was great seeing the girls getting stuck into all the displays and chatting with the people running them. I got talking to those running the robotics and hologram displays, too – it’s nice to let your inner nerd out to play and get really in-depth and interesting answers to any questions you have.

Particularly well done to the lady giving the “superpowers” talk for keeping all ages attentive, but also for showing plenty of women talking about their careers in science and engineering. Millie and Amber probably didn’t notice the gender balance, but I did. 🙂

We stayed right to the very end (as did lots of other people) and then went to Chinatown, as promised, for Chinese food, which we all love. The girls loved the food and the place – especially the giant fluffy dragons by the door.

That’s where I looked around at my family, in a “proper” Chinese restaurant, eating Chinese food with chopsticks, and realised we would never have done this when I was growing up.

Not better, just different. 🙂

A day out

Millie and I had a father and daughter day out today. 🙂  It had been planned for yesterday but Amber’s nursery kept calling us up to say she was ill and could we please come and collect her.  We’d arrive at nursery to find a beaming Amber shouting “Daddy! Daddy!  Lay-lays!  Lay-lays!” at the top of her voice and embarrassed-looking nursery Aunties mumbling something about temperatures and how she looks much better.

But today we finally got our day out on the town, and it was a slightly mixed bag.

For a start the day was defined by my having a brief interview with a digital media employment agency at 11am.  But first we had to collect a package from the post office and catch the train from Bexley station to Charing Cross.  Then we walked up to Leicester Square where the agency is based and had a brief but pleasant chat there about what I could do and what I wanted to be doing.

Kudos to Millie, who was dragged along to the interview, and to the agency who were very laid back about me bringing her along (I think both parties rather enjoyed the whole thing, actually).  It might seem like rather a boring thing for a five-year-old but in reality going through revolving doors and then in posh lifts up to cool offices is at least as new and different as going to a museum or a playground.  I vaguely remember seeing my dad’s work as some mysterious hermetic sanctum and often wondering what went on in there, so by that score I thought Millie would enjoy accompanying me on some vaguely official business to a West End office.

And Millie was exceptionally well-behaved.  And cute, too. 😉

Afterwards we wandered through Chinatown, which didn’t impress her much (they “did” China at school ages ago!).

Instead she was over the moon to find some Chinese takeaway-style silver cats that with the addition of a mere AA battery would wave at you, so we bought one of those and she marvelled at this more than anything else we saw for the rest of the day.  Sadly, when we got home and put the aforementioned AA battery in it didn’t initially work, but I was ridiculously proud to bolster my “Dad” credentials by opening it up with a screwdriver and managing to – somehow! – fix the thing. You better believe I am the daddy tonight!

Then we had some lunch from the sandwich shop I used to frequent near Yahoo! and met up with some of my old colleagues in the Phoenix Gardens across the road.  It was nice to catch up with them – and to discover that they still remember who I am!

Afterwards we walked down to Embankment and caught a river boat to Greenwich – which was supposed to be the centrepiece of the day, but actually fell rather flat (despite costing us only five pounds).

We got on board the boat and the first thing Millie said was “Can I play with your iPod?” and then “I’m bored“.  It eventually turned into a hissy fit because I wouldn’t let her continue to annoy the poor woman in front by pulling the little seat table up and down.

I then had a hissy fit of my own at Millie’s ungratefulness – which wasn’t helped by my sudden realisation that I had completely and utterly turned into my parents and Millie had turned into me.

We both apologised to each other when we got off the boat at Greenwich and caught the bus home to Bexley, whereupon Millie and Amber have both come down with sore throats and temperatures – perfect timing to disrupt the long-planned weekend visit from our friends the Mays.