The museum offered audio tours for adults and children, for no extra charge and the kids thought they were great. They gave me a child’s handset so that I could follow along with my kids, and I was really impressed with the recorded dialogue that was definitely meant to entertain children. So we walked through the rooms, put the appropriate number into our handset, and listened to all kinds of history, anecdotes, jokes and facts.
This was the first time we’d used audio guides in a museum and I’m a big fan. It was so effective in creating the atmosphere of tension, drama and historical magnitude. We were all captivated.
Until some of us weren’t. I could have easily stayed another hour or two but Mim and Simon eventually hit their limit so we finished it out and waited for my parents and Eli and Cameron in the gift shop.
After that my parents took Cameron with them to do some more site-seeing and I took Eli and the littles to St. James Park, as I had promised them that I would. The park was lovely.
I managed to console Simon, but he wasn’t feeling well so he never quite recovered. He eventually fell asleep on my lap on the park bench. I asked the kids if we could leave but they had waited all day long to play and so we stayed. Then it started to rain. That morning when I had checked the forecast it said 14% chance of rain. 14%! I wouldn’t bet anything on those odds. So we had no umbrella or jackets. We took refuge under a tree until the rain subsided and then we decided to make our way home.
I looked up the quickest route home on my phone, and saw that it was by train. I think I’ve mentioned before that I generally avoid the National Rail because Eli and Cameron need tickets and because it stresses me out. But because Simon was not feeling well and wanting to be held and carried, I thought the rail would be easy. No transfers, just a 25 minute ride home.
We started walking toward the closest rail station but I was having the hardest time negotiating the map. Nothing seemed to make sense and I couldn’t think very clearly with Simon whimpering and clinging to my neck or legs. We walked past Buckingham Palace, and then I realized that we were going the wrong direction so I picked a new station and went back toward the park. We walked and walked, and every time I looked at my phone it said
0.5 mi – 8 min.
We would walk for five minutes and I’d check my phone.
0.5 mi – 8 min,
We would change directions, go down a different street, I would look at the street maps they have on every corner. And STILL
0.5 mi – 8 min.
I was at my wits end, and now people were getting out of work. I had NO idea where I was, it was a part of the city that wasn’t touristy, it was more of a business center. I finally asked a women how to get to the rail station and she looked at me with great pity and said “Follow Me.”
She was so kind to offer to help, but she walked really fast and I was trying to carry Simon and hold hands with Mim and keep a close eye on Eli (who doesn’t know how to walk fast.) I was also more than a little bit ashamed of the mess I’d gotten myself in, and I often feel insecure in these situations that people judge me for having too many children when I clearly can’t handle them all. I don’t think this woman was judging me, and thank goodness because little did she know that I have FOUR kids.
We finally made it to the station and I reassured her that we could handle it from here and she went on her way. I was so flustered that I couldn’t really get my bearings so I made my best guess about which platform we needed to get to. When we got to the ticket gate I realized I hadn’t bought a ticket for Eli but the TFL employee took pity on me too, and let us through. We walked down the platform to get to the train that was waiting, only to realize that we needed to be on the next platform over, and as soon as I looked up I saw our train pull away.
We made our way over to that platform and I collapsed on a bench to catch my breath. The trains only come every 20-30 minutes and it was going to be awhile before the next one came. At first I assumed that the train we wanted would come to the same platform as the last one, but fortunately I had the intuition to check, but the trouble was, all the platform listings were on the OUTSIDE of the ticket gates, and I didn’t want to have to risk getting Eli back through without a ticket. So I stood there, for several minutes, like an exhausted idiot, while all the professionals bustled past me toward their trains. I finally just asked someone, made it to the right platform, and we boarded our train back home.
Sometimes this city feels like such a crazy, chaotic, complex universe that I will never get my head around. It was all so overwhelming and I felt so small. But every day like this is surrounded by days of wonder and awe. And even if I never figure things out, even if I always feel small, I just keep reminding myself that no one matters more or less than I do, and I try to just muster up some gratitude for this crazy, chaotic, complex city.