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Family Day Out: The Natural History Museum

It’s not often that the whole family gets a whole day together, in fact lately it’s been very rare what with him indoors’ work, birthday parties, ballet rehearsals and all the other things that we call life. So today we decided that we’d do something all together. Rather than the usual suspects; Box Hill, National Trust garden, bike ride, farm etc we thought we’d bite the bullet and take the girls to London to the Natural History Museum.

Eliza in particular is very interested in dinosaurs right now and Tilly will go along with most things. In fact it was the train journey that swung if for her. The simple things eh?

From Victoria we went to South Kensington tube and then it’s about a 1 minute walk. There was much excitement at going on both an overground and underground train. I was holding on to Tilly’s hand so tight she had to ask me to release it a bit, such was my paranoia about losing her on the tube, I don’t really write it about here but Tilly stops my heart regularly in that respect. It’s not just that we were in London and I’ve become completely suburbanised in 4 short years.

We arrived at one of the side entrances and walked into the Visions of Earth exhibition first. Eliza was asking a million questions about what each of the statues were, what they meant, and what was Greek mythology anyway. I was rather intrigued to see a skull of a Mastodon (relative of the elephant and mammoth since you ask) which gave rise to the myth of Cyclops. Fascinating. Medusa was harder to explain. (“Well there was this lady who was really, really ugly and she had snakes in her hair and she was SO ugly that when people looked at her they’d turn to stone.” Eliza looked confused. “Really? How can you be SO ugly that you turn someone to stone?” Good question, and Medusa is deeply politically incorrect.)

The Earth Galleries at the Natural History Museum, Medusa is second from the end

The Earth Galleries at the Natural History Museum

We had some lunch, did a few fossils then got to the main event, the reason why I wanted to go (yes it wasn’t entirely altruistic), the dinosaurs. By this point Eliza and I were on our own, we’d lost Tilly and him indoors in the ‘Treasures’. I was very keen to show Eliza a dodo, just always been fascinated by them, and we got involved in looking at all the other rather bizarre creatures and bits of creatures on display. It’s such a wonderful place, you can just imagine the Victorian explorers bringing back these strange collections. Having just read Danny Champion of the World to her we found the different pheasants worth some time too.

The Dodo skeleton

The Dodo skeleton

We walked into the huge entrance hall that houses the Dipolodocus skeleton, it was pretty awesome for someone who last went she she was about 10 years old.

Diplodocus in the Entrance Hall

Diplodocus in the Entrance Hall

“Wow, that’s massive! Imagine when they walked the earth, how extraordinary Eliza, don’t you think?”

“Mummy that’s just a diplodocus, it was a plant eater, I want to see the T Rex!”

Of course she did. So we went and got in the queue to where the dino action happens. It didn’t take long, about 10 minutes. I can’t think of someone I’d rather have seen of the exhibits with, you’d be hard pushed to find anyone more interested, more informed, more patient and more delightful than my daughter. There were no melt downs, no “I’m bored/hungry/need a wee”, just a very lovely companion. I hadn’t really appreciated quite how many dinosaurs there were and over what period they lived, or the sheer expanse of earth they covered (all of it, probably obvious I guess).

Some of the Interactive exhibits in the Dinosaur section

Some of the Interactive exhibits in the Dinosaur section

The exhibition has the skeletons rebuilt from actual bones, as well as some reproduction of the originals if they are exhibited elsewhere, interactive screens and interesting things to look at and learn about. It kept the attention of a 6 year old astonishingly well. Tilly and him indoors caught us up at the end of the dinosaurs and judging by the look on his face, Tilly hadn’t been quite such a great companion. But then again, she’s 4, give her a break.

I took her off to see the giant whale and the camels and all sorts of other taxidermy in the Mammals section, by this point I had her on my shoulders and she was singing along in the way that only very tired little girls do when they sit on their mother’s shoulders in the Natural History Museum. In her own, very different way, she was utterly delightful too. We went to the cafe and had lemon drizzle cake, tea and orange juice. We had a chat about what she liked.

“I liked the big scary dinosaur Mummy. He was really scary!” she was referring to the reconstructed TRex. Her eyes were wide and she was being very dramatic. We then had a discussion about how best to wear to her hairclip,

“If I put it here does it look beautifuller?” she asked as she stuck it on the back of head. Possibly darling, depends what look your going for really, I’m not one to stamp on individuality.

She was very interested in ChiChi the Panda, as was I when I noticed he was sat behind us in the cafe. I have vague recollection of him and Anan, the lady Panda who he never got it on with, although ChiChi had passed into taxidermy before I was born I might add. I’m probably being really thick but I had no idea they were so small. I thought they were huge like grizzly bears or Polar bears, they are Giant Pandas afterall, not Regular Sized Pandas. When Eliza and him indoors turned up he was explaining to them about ChiChi and Anan, which I thought was a risky strategy, bound to come a cropper when the inevitable question is raised, which it duly was,

“Why didn’t they have babies Daddy?”

“Well, they just decided they didn’t want to in the end. Right let’s have some cake.”

ChiChi, looks a bit lonely really, poor chap

ChiChi, looks a bit lonely really, poor chap

We left after that, the girls were tired and you can have too much of a good thing. We arrived home at bath time, after a slightly stressful trip on the tube and train, complete with a mortgage-job on the Carousel outside the museum. £9 for a 3 minute ride for 3 of us. Tilly had to go with me as she was too small. Wow.

All in all it was a rather perfect day. I hope we will do more family days out and explore more of London too, we are pretty lucky to live so close after all.


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