Posted in baby class, gallery, sensory

Mini Masterpieces, Dulwich Picture Gallery

When Vogue magazine rates a baby class as among the very best in London, you know you’ve got to check it out. So, the wee man and I hot-footed it to Dulwich Picture Gallery for Holly Dabbs’ excellent Mini Masterpieces class, recommended for little ones from 6-24 months.

I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting from the session beyond a bunch of babes getting messy with paint…but it was so much more than that!

For a start, Holly and her small team begin by taking you through the permanent collection – singing as they go – and encouraging you to share, point to and delight in the art around you with your little one. Now, you might think the works of 17th and 18th century European masters is a bit beyond a 10-month-old – and we did swerve past a beheading – but you’d be surprised how many of these greats love a cow, dog or sheep as much as we do. Cue much moo-ing, woof-ing and baa-ing as we made our way round to the total bemusement of the other gallery-goers!

Next came the painting. On giant sheets of paper taped to the floor the babies were let loose with paint brushes, crayons, cornflour and food-colouring and it was – as you might expect – gloriously messy mayhem. True, the wee man seemed more intent on eating the paint-brushes than channelling his inner Jackson Pollock, but he loved it none the less. A magic way to spend the morning.

Cost ⭐️⭐️⭐️

£12 but worth it

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Pram or sling – either fine, no stairs to navigate

Facilities ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Baby changing available (though I just changed the wee man in the private room provided) and a good cafe on site if you fancied lunch after.

Feeding-friendly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Yeah, with this crowd you’re golden

General vibes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

The wee man and I were covered in cornflour and all the happier for it.

Posted in gallery

Tate Britain

Ever have one of those days / weeks / months when your head is just swimming with noise?! Me too. Parenting can sometimes feel like a steady stream of conflicting information. Get them in a routine, don’t bother with a routine, crying it out is cruel, crying it out is the only thing that works, baby-led weaning is best, parent-led weaning is best … it goes on and on and sometimes I find it hard to hear my own voice among the clatter.

In those times, it’s nice to have a place that makes you feel calm. Since having the wee man, that place has become – for me – Tate Britain. Well, the pub does the same job but I’d get more judgement hanging out there all the time. I don’t even know much about art…if anything! Crap, I only just found out that it’s Van Gogh like the Scots pronunciation of “loch”. But there’s something about Tate Britain that I find very soothing and grounding.

Most recently we took the wee man to see the much-hyped Van Gogh exhibition. Arriving early, we hot-footed it to the downstairs Djanolgy café (pronounciation? I have no idea) for a much needed caffeine and cake hit. Teething is currently robbing us all of sleep so when the big man came back with not only a brownie but a blondie too I almost keeled over with excitement (it’s the small things these days). Top tip: eat a bite out of each at the same time and you get the most awesome flavour combination.

The cafe itself is also great, with wide leather benches that make breastfeeding a stress-free experience, a good stock of high-chairs and friendly, helpful staff (one chap asked me if I needed a high-chair before I’d even sat down). Plus the place is never short of a Granny or two, ready to coo over your offspring which, let’s be honest, is always a nice ego-boost.

Toilets with a changing table are just round the corner. If, like mine, your babe has a strongly held aversion to hand-dryers, I would avoid using the changing table in the ladies loo. I did last time and was left trying to console my distraught off-spring while arm deep in poo. You have been warned.

We opted to bring the wee man in a sling but the place is very pram-friendly with lifts and ramps, though the exhibition itself was BUSY so you might find it harder to navigate a pram round the throngs of people.

Van Gogh as in ‘loch’ was a bit of a revelation to me – I was definitely familiar with his work (if not how to pronounce his name) but to see some of it up close was lovely; I could have starred at his Starry Night over the Rhône for hours – and not just with the glaze of a woman for whom a full night’s sleep is a distant memory. As it was, I had to dash home for bath and bedtime.

Tate Britain in a nutshell:

Cost ⭐️⭐️

A pretty pricey £22 per ticket but we used our Art Fund passes and got tickets half price

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Pram or sling, there are ramps and lifts everywhere

Facilities ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

They’ve got you covered. Just don’t use the baby changing table in the ladies loo if, like me, your baby hate hand-dryers. And if weaning, make sure you bring food for baby as there isn’t anything on offer in the cafe.

Feeding friendly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Comfortable if breastfeeding and there are plenty of high chairs for bigger babes.

General vibe ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

I just love it; a calm, cultural sanctuary especially when feeling overwhelmed by it all

Posted in gallery

Diane Arbus at Hayward Gallery, Southbank

Back on the May bank holiday we had and a lovely family visit to the Hayward Gallery on London’s Southbank for the last day of the wonderful Diane Arbus “In the beginning” exhibition. 

I was intrigued to see her work as she has one of those names I’ve heard a thousand times but yet wasn’t very familiar with her photography. So took the lads for an afternoon on the Southbank (gone are the days of Bank Holiday’s spent in pub beer gardens – right?)

With our Art Fund pass (highly recommend; very much worth the investment for those of us counting pennies on mat leave) tickets were a reasonable £7 each – the same as two cups of tea in their cafe (where, incidentally, there is a lovely long sofa, perfect for breastfeeding). 

Decided to take the wee man in his sling – definitely easier for negotiating the warren that is the Southbank Centre, which brings new meaning to the term brutalism for any mum’s with prams! (Though, I was told by a v helpful security guard that step-free access was available via the Royal Festival Hall and car park). 

Staff at the gallery were super-friendly and helpful; as soon as we stepped into the exhibition someone approached to show us where the lift was (Diane Arbus was on the top floor) – a thoughtful gesture – though took the stairs as got to squeeze in some exercise where I can! 

Not sure if the wee man had unusually discerning taste for 6 months or if he was simply enjoying the smiles of his fellow Arbus fans but as soon as we started making our way round, he started squealing like a stuck pig. I veered between feeling waves of love and waves of embarrassment; dashing in and out of the space depending on which emotion was taking over. Eventually the big man pointed out that no-one cared and in fact, some were actually enjoying his exuberance. 

Maybe it is fitting that we felt so comfortable and welcome viewing an exhibition by a celebrated photographer whose pictures beautifully capture ordinary people going about their day-to-day lives; but I don’t always feel like that with the wee one in tow. The only downside to the experience was that the baby-changing facilities were a little hard to find (they are in the far toilet next to the cloakroom on the ground floor) with signs demonstrating inclusivity – great) – but no clear sign for which loo offers a changing table – not great if you’re handling a small, wriggling baby with a stinky nappy. 

Hayward in a nutshell

Cost ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Obviously it depends on the exhibition you’re going to see, but £7 with an Art Pass seems reasonable

Accessibility ⭐️⭐️
Bring a sling if you can – the Southbank is a warren. Lifts are accessible via Royal Festival Hall and the car park, apparently.  

Facilities ⭐️⭐️⭐️
Baby changing is available on the ground floor (far toilet) but could do with being sign-posted

Feeding friendly ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Grab the sofa and your golden. 

General vibes ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Loved it, a great afternoon out with both the big and wee lads with lovely gallery-goers and staff.