What started as a random conversation with our eldest daughter yesterday afternoon turned into my waking with a start at 7:30 this morning - a Sunday morning I might add - and ejecting myself out of bed in the blundering, clumsy, half awake way that I seem to be particularly good at.
I put my head around the corner of Miss 15’s door, and shouted something appropriate about getting up to go to London. She stared back in bleary eyed manner of somebody waking to discover the world was three dimensional for the first time - wildly taking in her surroundings before slowly remembering that it was Sunday, I was Dad, and there had been a conversation about going to London.
Here’s the thing about going to London for the day - you have to get there first. It’s an hour on the train to reach Paddington Station, and another half an hour across the Underground network to reach the various sights - so you really want to be leaving home before breakfast time to leave yourself with “the day” in London, rather than “a few hours”. By “breakfast time”, I obviously mean a working person’s breakfast time - not a college student who doesn’t have a lecture that day, or a somebody sponging off the state breakfast time, which could range anywhere from mid-morning, to early afternoon, or not at all.
We miraculously made it to the railway station at 8:48am. I know this because I was clock watching all the way down the road (we live half a mile from the station), on account of Miss 15 deciding it would be a good idea to wear flip-flops on her feet. Don’t ask. While approaching the station I happened to glance at a coach parked in a side-road. The driver waved me closer - and then I saw the sign - “Replacement Bus Service”.
We did eventually get to London - albiet twenty minutes or so after we might have if the trains had actually been working. It never really surprises me that work on the railway happens at weekends, because I spent enough time working in London to realise when and where the money is made. If you ever think a train is busy on a weekend, try getting on any of the trains near London on a weekday morning. You’ll never complain again.
Our journey into London slowly morphed from “a fun day out doing whatever” to “a trip to the comic book shop”. I started out thinking it was my idea, but by the time I arrived at the checkout in Forbidden Planet, I had begun wondering if the entire day had been an elaborately constructed plan.
It turned out Miss 15 had “discovered” Anime on Netflix. As we wandered from Tottenham Court Road underground station towards Shaftesbury Avenue, I heard a never-ending stream of enthusiasm about “Attack on Titan”, “Tokyo Ghoul”, and various other TV series. There was only one problem - that we didn’t discover until we stood outside the door of Forbidden Planet at 11am - it didn’t open for another hour (it’s probably worth explaining that Forbidden Planet in the biggest comic book and collectible toy store in the country - and Miss 15 had never been there).
We wandered off towards Covent Garden for a bit, and I told Miss 15 to keep an eye open for celebrities looking around the stalls. I wouldn’t recognise any of the current boy band members or magazine models, but I suspected she might. We didn’t see anybody famous, but we did stop for quite some time listening to a woman singing opera in the middle of the cafe - a quick search of the internet a few moments ago revealed her as Joanna Marie Skillett (I think). She was wonderful - and quite predictably as she finished her set, a flood of people got up from their tables to chip in money, or buy a CD.
Before we knew it, we were back at the comic book store, and Miss 15 vanished into the crowd like a rat up a drainpipe. I didn’t really walk in with any particular purchase in mind, but within twenty minutes found myself carrying two DC comic books, five or six manga books, and some kind of collectible plushy thing. I had been well and truly played.
I had even asked earlier in the day if she had picked her wallet up on the way out of the house. Nope. Isn’t the “Bank of Dad” amazing ?
To be honest, today was really just about getting out of the house. The cost of a few books were of little concern when compared to building the confidence of somebody that needs every extra string she can pull at the moment. After the comic book debacle we had a fantastic day knocking around London - visiting the Nickolodeon store (who knew?!), M&M World, and spending quite some time watching the various street entertainers in Leicester Square.
I smiled at the portrait artists lined up on the east side of Leicester Square - displaying pastel portraits that no doubt took them tens of hours, and offering to draw people in three or four minutes. I watched a couple of them going about their trade, and was genuinely impressed with one guy doing charicatures; not so much for the likenesses he drew, but for his technique with the materials he used. We both burst out laughing when he captured a fantastic likeness of a pretty girl with long dark hair - and then pretty much destroyed the drawing by giving her cartoon breasts that Power Girl would have been proud of.
Finally we trecked back to the Underground, climbing out half an hour later at Paddington. After a wander around a local bookseller (where I resisted buying the new Harry Potter book for the second time today), we saw our train pop-up on the departure boards, and set off for home.
A long day, but a good day. And I did buy the Harry Potter book in the end - it will be delivered to work tomorrow.