Rose (8), Max (6) and Kitty (2). Names have been changed to protect the guilty. The two big ones have heard of Shakespeare, and their daddy’s business uses the Warwickshire logo, so Stratford seemed a good place to start our Easter holiday activities...this was my first mistake in a series of amateur and elementary blunders.
Who would imagine it’s ever too early to introduce the young to important aspects of our national culture?
The second mistake was to take all three: ‘Ah! Kitty’s crying! She wants to come too!’
We parked, and fearing the loss of one or two as we advanced, held hands on the way to The Birthplace.
Trawling up Bridge Street we caught a good haul of tourists too slow to take evasive action, and only released them when Max broke away and swarmed up a lamppost ‘to see where we’re going’.
The machine at the museum entrance has a huge hand-turned wheel, irresistible to children. It takes a penny and cunningly transforms it, at the cost of a pound and a lot of heaving and shoving, into a novelty squashed item with Shakespeare’s mug shot on one side.
They wrestled with each other for first turn, wrestled with the wheel, wrestled over the penny, and then lost it. Fun. The calm before the storm.
The endless fascinations of a restored Tudor household, complete with a table laden with food, a leather workshop, hand-blocked patterns on the wall and actors in costume were blanked in favour of running around shouting ‘This is rubbish!’ The shame, the shame.
I hooked Max up by his collar and pointed out that some people had come from the other side of the world to see this, and he was to stop spoiling their enjoyment, now, right now.
Mouth half open and stunned for a full thirty seconds, he escaped into the garden where he tried to fall off a wall and break his leg. Failing, he led the charge into the obligatory purgatorial gift shop, where I said ‘No’ to the £150 facsimile of the First Folio, ‘No’ to the pencil sharpeners at 150p and ‘No’ to everything in between. ‘No’ even to the bathtime rubber duck with Shakespeare’s head spookily superimposed, although I must admit I was uncannily drawn to it myself.
Following Kitty, Rose and Max galloped off with hobbyhorses left enticingly (someone else’s mistake this time) outside a souvenir shop, and, tired of being mistaken for Fagin taking his crew out for work-experience, I necked a quick cup of tea while they chased pigeons in the street.
Walking back to the car we became marooned on a traffic island, and I can tell you that marshalling three farm-bred kids with no fear of traffic isn’t easy. Luckily I overheard plenty of kind and helpful suggestions from parents with non-feral children.
Then home at last – I opened the car doors and joyfully released them back into the wild.
Please send suggestions as to where I can take them next time. ‘Nowhere near us’ doesn’t count.