How do you entertain a 1 year old on a train?

We had a clan meeting at London Zoo yesterday. Me, S & E, and my mum, sister and nephew, J. It’s been planned for months and I think we were all looking forward to it. It’s such a nice idea to be able to see them for the day – if the trains were cheaper I’d like to do it more often.

Of course, this left us to find out how E would react to train journeys – I (naively) hoped that, as the journeys coincided with nap time and bed time that she might sleep during them as much as possible. Faint hope. I took things to do to keep her occupied. In fact my list of things to take ran as follows:

  • picnic – for us (salad x 3 types, mini scotch eggs, cake, flapjack, clementines, apples, water). Additional food in case E didn’t want to eat that (rice cakes, cheese, yoghurt, cheese & apple biscuits, carrot cereal bars, juice, water)
  • changing bag – with additional items including Calpol, extra spoons, suncream (factor 50), 2 hats, extra wipes, extra large muslin for sun protection, 1 normal muslin, change of clothes,
  • 2 storybooks, 1 rattle, 1 wooden frog thing that makes a noise, 1 story card with finger puppets, 1 squeaky toy, 1 rattly crocheted octopus, 1 pushchair toys
  • 1 coat & 1 extra cardigan (E), 1 cardigan (me), 1 jumper (S), adult suncream (factor 30),  1 x hat each

Aside from the rice cakes, Calpol, coat & cardigan we used all of that. And bought a Saturday paper for the train. Laden down much?

Anyway, she was mostly ok on the train until she decided she was tired. Though I discovered a whole new world of pressure when I was reading to her – you get very self conscious about your reading style with a larger audience. Humphrey’s Farm Adventure took on a whole new dramatic undertone. Anyway, to relieve evil looks I took her to the lobby when she started crying. It was cooler there but it was also A LOT NOISIER and I think probably unsettled her a lot. Still, she did eventually nod off (the train conductors don’t ask you for a ticket when you’ve a screaming baby – top tip for naughty people) (disclaimer – I do not recommend you actually do this, before someone tries it & gets caught. Don’t blame me.)

The zoo was busy but not so bad that we couldn’t see what we wanted with a bit of jostling. I had a lovely conversation with my nephew about pygmy hippos. J is 18 months older than E and is a nice guide for me to see what I’m supposed to do when she’s a bit bigger. In fact, his existence paved the way for me being confident enough (the pre-conception months) to decide I might be able to be a mum after all. He is a dear little fellow and we stood and looked at the pygmy hippo which was asleep in the sun. “Hmm, hmm,” said J (sounding a bit like Dolores Umbridge for a second…) trying to wake the hippo up. It didn’t work. “It’s a pygmy hippo,” I said. “That means it’s a small hippo.” “It’s a BIG hippo!” he said (not unreasonably, it was twice his size at least.) “Well it’s small for a hippo,” I said. His attention was distracted by a man who was taking its photo. “Say cheese!” J said.

We went a cockeyed route and didn’t get to see everything but had a lovely day anyway. E was fascinated by the aquarium but also liked the aardvarks and monkeys. On the way back we passed two women having a fight in Regent’s Park (“You fucking feminist slag! You don’t know the meaning of sisterhood!”) the two pianos were being well played in St Pancras and we missed Worldwide Knit in Public day – a table worth of ladies were packing up their needles and wool in the station. If I’d had room with all our stuff I’d have packed my latest project (a VW camper van in moss stitch) up to knit at the zoo.

E charmed everyone on the way home despite being too tired to sleep. She rested against S’s chest but refused to sleep and kept looking round to make sure we were all still there. She also offered her octopus to the lady (a dead ringer for Tracey Thorn) sitting opposite us.

Despite doing the Lottery every week I’m not sure I particularly want to win millions. Enough to be able to afford to do this sort of thing regularly would be nice. And to get a new kitchen. If someone could see their way to sorting this for me, that’d be great.

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