Trains, Planes, and Comic Book Heroes

After the disaster that Monday became, I summoned Miss 12 from bed at 7am yesterday morning for a repeat performance. By 8am we were waiting patiently at the local railway station, watching the minutes tick down, and listening to the robotic voice of the public address system as it announced the approaching train.

I had not planned anything specific for our trip to London, so listed out the places to Miss 12 that we might visit.

“So where are we going then? The Natural History Museum? The Science Museum? The British Museum? The Victoria and Albert? The Tate Modern? The National Portrait Gallery?”

“Can we go to see the aeroplanes?”

I’ll admit that she caught me out. Although I had talked about it earlier in the weekend while going through options, I had deliberately left it out of the list, because I thought she might have more fun in the Science Museum (and they have a new area open). Kids are great at remembering things, aren’t they.

So off we set. First a train ride into Paddington, then the Underground to Kings Cross, then the Northern Line to Colindale – about ten minutes walk from the Royal Air Force Museum at Hendon.

She was predictably goggle-eyed at the various aircraft we wandered around. I even stumped up for the “4D cinema”, which it turned out was a less than spectacular room with jiggling chairs, 3D glasses, and wind and smoke blown in your face while you watched a number of clips filmed from inside the Red Arrows display team jets during displays. As we left I asked Miss 12 if she liked it, and she said yes. I really wanted to ask her if she thought it was shit too…

The real attraction of the RAF Museum is of course the aircraft dotted around the various hangars – everything from First World War bi-planes, to a mock-up of the F35 Joint Strike Fighter. We stood in the bomb-bay of cold-war era Vulcan bomber, peered into the cramped confines of an F-4 Phantom cockpit, and declined paying to sit in a Spitfire (but did take quite a few photos). After perhaps a couple of hours wandering around looking at the various aircraft, we grabbed food and a drink in the cafe before heading out to the World War 2 hangar. Which was shut.

I get it. They have to work on the contents of the museum sometimes. But half-term week? Really? One of the things I knew Miss 12 would like most was walking through the Sunderland flying-boat. She didn’t get to do that. She also didn’t get to see the V2 rocket, or any of the German bombers. I had to hide my annoyance by taking her into the shop (or rather, she vanished, and I found her in the shop). After ten minutes perusing the various toys, games, movies, and books, she picked out the exact same Airfix Spitfire model kit that her little sister chose a year before.

Because our visit to the RAF Museum got cut short, suddenly all the options that had been off the table for the afternoon were suddenly back on the table. You should have seen her face when I told her we were headed to “Forbidden Planet” – perhaps the biggest comic book and collectible shop in the country. You should also have seen her face when she asked if she could buy a book, and I said yes (for some reason she was expecting “not today”?).

I love Forbidden Planet – not so much because of the comics though. Many years ago I did art at college, and have always loved sculpture. In a glass cabinet within the entrance of Forbidden Planet they have a collection of figurines of movie and comic book characters that has to be seen to be believed. The prices also have to be seen to be believed, but then I’m not sure I would ever want to own any of them – I just appreciate how good they are.

After heading back towards Leicester Square underground station – via a quick stop at McDonalds – we started our journey home. It came as no surprise what-so-ever that my young charge fell asleep for most of the journey home. It had been a long day. A long day designed to remind her that I’m not always an ogre – that I’m not always the short tempered parent asking her to pick things up, to put things away, and to brush her hair properly.

We just won’t talk about me discovering five water bottles, six empty candy wrappers, and a mountain of clean clothes stuffed into the back of her wardrobe late last night, or the nuclear scale explosion from me that resulted.

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