Capturing our love for art, adventure and learning
We ended off summer with a massive post (A stupendous summer) in August! Summer was quite an experience and turned out so much better than we've expected. If you haven't read it, do click on the red link!
Septembers have always been special. Growing up, half my family's birthdays were in September. After my first stint in the UK, September took on even more meaning as autumn became my favourite season of all. It isn't hard to imagine why isn't it? Autumnal colours, cool weather and especially the one extra hour of sleep you get when British Summer Time (Daylight savings) ends in October....
After Matt and Gwyn were born, we started having 4 birthday cakes in a month.That brought all of us a lot of joy. When dad passed in 2021, we became even more acutely aware of our mortality which makes birthdays even more important. We don't know when we'll blow out our last candle. We've therefore made it a point to let our children know that we are celebrating their lives, and our lives together. It really isn't about how fancy the gifts or celebrations are, it is about the people we have to love and hold.
For those who are wondering if they do share the same birthday, they don't! Their birthdays are less than a week apart so for the past many years we've been letting Gwyn blow out her candle early on Matt's birthday. It has become a sort of tradition that they each get their special day out on the actual day (and get to enjoy their siblings special day out too). It is like having two birthdays.
We did a little poll on Instagram and you guys responded...
Turns out we've managed to do both a special day and a double celebration!
Before we could enjoy London, we had to do our voting duties at the polls in London at the Singapore Embassy. That meant a 2 hour drive down south and a quick Underground ride to central London.
Voting was done very quickly and we were off for a quick lunch at Shake Shack. It turned out to be really ordinary! I think that's because Debra makes way more awesome burgers at home these days. I haven't got a single picture of the meal because it was that forgettable.
We headed to a more memorable Borough Market where we experienced a whole host of smells and sights. It wasn't good planning on my part that we visited the place on a full tummy right after lunch. We didn't buy any of the food but they looked pretty amazing! There was a paella stall that had security managing its snaking queue. It was surely the most popular thing in the market. If you love your cheese, you'll find that there's no short supply of cheese shops there.
Apart from the cooked food (and raw oysters), you can also get fresh produce around the market. You can get the regular vegetables, fruits and meat to whip up a tasty meal here. You'll also find monstrous looking fish and even wood pigeons at the butcher. We were a little shocked because we have some wood pigeon friends around our neighbourhood that hang around in the trees...
After the children had a little dance to the music of the buskers, we walked across the London bridge that hasn't fallen down to catch the Underground towards Leadenhall Market.
Matt wanted to see the spots that one of the Harry Potter movie was filmed. We did manage to watch a Youtube video at the market to identify the spots. Leadenhall is a little more upmarket and consists of mainly eateries and pubs. We were a little disappointed because there wasn't much to see or experience around here. Beautiful architecture aside, I think it would be more suitable about 10 years from now when I can share a pint with my kids.
We were back on the underground and headed towards Mina Lima: the design studio behind the graphic props of the Harry Potter and Fantastic Beasts films, founded by Miraphora Mina and Eduardo Lima.
If you are a potter fan, this place is a must visit! It is a more sophisticated version of the platform 9 3/4 shop at Kings Cross Station. They sell more designs and art related to the film instead of movie merchandise. You'll find very beautiful prints, notebooks, frames, books and posters here. I think most fans of the potter films will find the shop decor an attraction in itself.
We must have done 10,000 steps by this point and were a little wet from the downpour but it was the time the kids were most looking forward to. It was time to buy their birthday gift from Nai Nai! I told their grandma not to send a gift over because it would be a waste of money on the freight. We would buy it on her behalf instead.
We first headed to Hamleys but the kids couldn't decide on what they wanted. They were quite focused on Lego but some Lego sets at Hamleys were priced £10 more than the Lego store itself. We decided to visit a Waterstones (Book shop) but they couldn't find books that they really wanted. As the evening drew near, it was Leicester Square's Lego store that fit the bill for the gift. I think the most wholesome thing that happens every time we head to a toy shop is that the kids never want to buy anything unless they really loved it. Choices are not made based on the price tag or size of the box. It is one of those things that warms the cockles of my heart.
Dinner was supposed to be a spectacular meal at a Malaysian restaurant serving up satay, nasi lemak and yummy fried rice but they were booked out for the night. We were sorely disappointed and settled for McDonald's because we were just too tired to keep looking.
Things didn't go exactly to plan and our plans didn't really turn out the way we expected it to be but I was a proud dad of two kids under 10 who conquered 18,291 steps, 11.8km, 32 floors and 6 Underground lines (Elizabeth, Bakerloo, Central, District, Piccadilly & Jubilee) in an afternoon! The unintended effect was that all of us slept soundly once we go back home to the midlands that evening!
We promised Gwyn that she could visit the zoo to hug the Graffalo and see the penguins on her birthday. Tickets were booked on our annual pass but the British weather had other ideas. A heat wave descended on the UK and temperatures shot up. The sun was relentless and we decided to postpone the zoo trip to avoid getting heat exhaustion/burnt. I hunted down for a replacement activity somewhere air-conditioned to escape the heat. Our cereal packet promotion finally led us to this attraction in an ornate mall in Manchester.
With two free tickets, Legoland experience centre in Manchester was more affordable and worth the 2 hour drive up north. It is effectively a Lego themed soft-play with two kiddy rides and a 4D show. The kids are huge fans of Lego and they flood my telly's Youtube history with Lego related content. Their mornings always start with building all sorts of contraptions and worlds with Lego. No surprise they really enjoyed this one!
With some time to spare after the Legoland experience (very weirdly closes at 230pm), we knew exactly where we wanted to be that afternoon. Matt and I are massive United fans and we decided to take a trip to our home stadium. It was too late to book a tour and so we did our own mini tour around the stadium and browsed the store. The walk wasn't too bad because most of the way was sheltered under the stadium itself.
It is not often that kids are quiet. But they became uncharacteristically quiet and attentive as they read the boards detailing the history of the Munich air disaster that killed 8 Manchester United players and 15 other passengers on board. I'm sure it moved them. It gets me every time when I read the part about the team being rebuilt and winning the European Cup 10 years after the crash decimated almost the entire team. I hope the kids are as inspired as I am to believe in coming back stronger, fighting against the odds and doing the impossible.
Now onto my favourite season: autumn!
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