The alarm clock filled the bedroom with one of the national radio stations at 7am this morning. I listened for a few minutes before my other half rolled over and murmured “are getting up then?”. A few moments later the bedroom door creaked open, and my sixteen year old daughter stood in the doorway grinning.
“Time to get up Dad”.
An hour later – after a shower, a shave, a piece of toast and a coffee, attention turned to my eldest daughter – who miraculously emerged from her room as promised.
Today was all about her really. Yes, we went to London, and yes, I cracked open the “bank of Dad” a little, but it was really about my eldest leaving the house for the entire day and testing herself against the world at large. She’s been fighting a crippling battle against anxiety for the last several years – today was something of a howitzer shot against it, orchestrated over dinner a couple of evenings previously.
We got on the 9am train towards London, masks on our faces, and hand-wash in our pockets. After a change of trains en-route, a little over an hour later we arrived at Paddington and set off through the back streets rather than into the Underground – avoiding the percentage game with the virus beneath the streets of the city.
Our journey took us the length of Hyde Park and St James Park. Along the way we explored the Princess Diana memorial fountains, and discovered a herd of wooden Elephants among the park trees. After perhaps an hour on-foot we started threading our way through the streets of London – picking our way along Shaftesbury Avenue towards our ultimate goal; “Forbidden Planet” – the biggest comic book shop in the country.
Before submerging ourselves in all things Manga, Anime, Marvel, and DC, we wandered to a chain Sushi restaurant a little way from the comic book store, and realised we were actually quite hungry. I got arm twisted into trying a dessert called “mochi”, and fell in love with it.
After eating ourselves to a standstill, we returned to the comic book store for perhaps an hour – pouring through comics, board games, and all manner of collectible figures and toys. I love the artwork, but can take or leave the stories. My eldest is hugely invested in Manga, and always has been. It’s my fault really – I introduced her to the Studio Ghibli movies when she was young, and then bought her first Anime series on DVD, and first Manga books. She now has a bookshelf full of them.
Our youngest picked up some blind-box collectibles. She’s so easy to please. In some ways she doesn’t weigh the world in the same way as other people – she has never been attached to money, or things; she would much rather spend her money on others, or spend time with them than have anything for herself. She has never been overly influenced by others either – she walks to her own beat.
On the way back we stopped in St James park and sat on the grass with a drink – watching the world go by. A group of models with an entourage arrived to pose with one of the herds of wooden elephants – we laughed at them tottering through the grass in platform shoes, miniskirts, and not much else. I remarked that one of the girls had calf muscles to die for – my eldest immediately agreed – she had noticed too.
Finally arriving back into Paddington station, we stopped at Pret for something quick to eat before finding a train towards home. I bought some chocolate for the journey, which caused endless hilarity when I discovered you can’t really eat with a face mask on.
This evening we will sleep well. I’m not quite sure how many miles we walked, or how much money we spent – but that wasn’t really the point. Today was about being outside, pushing comfort zones, battling demons, and getting used to the world once again. A very big world that has largely survived the last eighteen months unscathed – thanks mostly to scientists, and the quiet majority following guidance when issued.
While walking through the park, seeing life happening around us, it struck me that sometimes it pays to switch your phone off, put it in your pocket, and go for a walk. I’m reminded of the advice Bilbo gave to Frodo – “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out your door. You step onto the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there’s no knowing where you might be swept off to.”