It was based on a book by the same name which had really captured the boys imagination. For those who haven’t read it, all the letters from all the words in all the world live in a postbox under the shadow of Big Ben. To contact them you must find an old fashioned red telephone box, dial six and count to ten slowly, but more on that later.
Our cover story was that we were staying with some friends, visiting a few landmarks and attending a rave at the Ministry of Sound. The perfect foil.
But we needed aliases, and for the purposes of this mission we would now be known as Terry and Jude. Not that I look like a Terry (although worryingly it has since been said that I kind of do) but because to get in to the Tower of London for the discounted rate of a local resident we had to take on the persona of our friends neighbours. Well, needs must, and what secret agent hasn’t occasionally ‘borrowed’ an identity or two?
Why Jude felt it necessary to keep shouting, “TERRY” at the top of her common Mancunian voice once we were beyond the ticket office remains a mystery, but I digress.
Now, I’m no royalist but I do love a good tower.
Janet loves to play the role of the stereotypical Chinese tourist, so anything Queeny(?) and she gets so giddy with excitement that I have to ban her from the gift shop for fear she’ll re-mortgage the house on a life-sized model of a Beefeater.
And the boys love swords and castles and stories of the grisliest of grisly deaths, so for them this was Horrible Histories meets Minecraft meets “can I have an ice-cream yet?”
No trip to the tower is complete without a good old nosy at the crown jewels, and it’s here that I have an issue. I’d love to say it’s the questionable garnering of the gemstones or the symbolism of an unelected monarchy. Sadly it’s neither. My issue is I’ve seen similar accessories in the dressing up aisle of Poundland and I struggled to tell the difference. A gemologist I’m most certainly not, although I’d probably take them off Her Majesty’s hands for a fiver, if she threw in an orb or two.
And no trip to London is complete without me pointing out all the famous landmarks to the kids as we walked back to the tube station,
Me: “That building is called the gherkin”
Luca: “ooh, a pigeon!”
Me: “Can you see Tower Bridge?”
Sonny: “Lemon ice-cream for me please!”
Me: “Have I ever told you the story of Dick Whittington?”
Luca: “If I say yes can I go and chase those pigeons?”
Me: “That’s the river Thames”
Sonny: “That man’s got no trousers on!”
Me: “Ooh look, pigeons!”
Day two and we went back in time to a bygone age of social lives and irresponsibility. Back to when a night out didn’t begin until the early hours and when sleep was a hindrance more than a dream.
Before this trip the last gig I’d been to was Wild Beasts at Manchester Cathedral. The last rave, a dirty basement club in Manchester. I was happy with this. Both were fitting finale’s I could be proud of, should I never do either again.
Well, not any more. For the Wild Beasts you can now read the Go!Go!Go! Dancers of Nick Junior. My dirty basement club in the early hours, the Ministry of Sound on a Friday afternoon.
This was Rave-A-Roo, and it was brilliant.
A licensed bar for the grown-ups, top DJ’s, neon crafts for the kids and a dance floor to give them their very first taste of the embarrassing dad dancing I fully intend to blight their childhood with. What’s not to love?
The event was so well organised. From the abundance of free glow-sticks to the baby changing facilities in the toilets, every small detail was thought through and it’s well worth a visit if you can.
We finished the day with a walk around the Imperial War Museum where Sonny picked up an authentic war wound from swinging off my arm and straight into a crash barrier. The irony was completely lost on him if not on the people who saw it, and there were many.
It was a fabulous end to a fabulous few days, and I have to thank our friends for putting us up and humouring our touristy ways. And for the midnight feast which Sonny and Luca both agreed was their highlight!?
But what of Operation Alphabet I hear you ask. Or not.
Well, to be fair I hadn’t really thought this one through. You see we did eventually find an old red telephone box, but in hindsight they’re not really the kind of places you want a five and six-year old spending any length of time in, least of all a slow count to ten.
“That’s not how you spell six!”
No. No it’s not. Operation Alphabet had become Operation Seedy and was quickly abandoned. Colonel A should be ashamed of himself!
We might not have spoken to Corporal B as hoped, but I do have the telephone number for his sister, Busty Bea from Bethnal Green, should you be interested?