Hyde Park Winter Wonderland is basically a massive amusement park that is somehow built just temporarily in Hyde Park. Rides, games, fattening foods, ice sculpture garden, fairly tacky Christmas market, ice skating rink, Father Christmas’ grotto. We took kids, so it was mostly kiddie carnival rides and liege waffles with Nutella and sprinkles on top. But I think it would be fun to get a babysitter one night and do a date night here next December. We could ride the rollercoasters, drink adult beverages in the ice bar, go ice skating, and just enjoy it like big kids! (For a price, of course. We looked at the cost of the biggest rollercoaster and it was something like £10 for one ride. My 15-second slide down the Helter-Skelter with E was £6 for the two of us, because of course they wouldn’t let her go alone so I had to pay too.)
London does Christmas beautifully. The city lights up, which is really nice considering there are many hours of darkness that time of the year. Because I had just had a baby, and we had two months of family visiting, I didn’t get around to blogging about everything we did at Christmastime in London. But we actually did a lot! So I’m just going to post some pictures of the various things we did, so there’s a record of it and I can remember someday. Hopefully I’ll do a better job of blogging about London at Christmastime in 2017!
Christmas Lights in London
There are lots of Christmas light switch-on events in late November/early December. You can find lists published online with the dates and locations (check TimeOut). We went to the one on our local high street (the lights were a bit underwhelming but the real reindeer didn’t disappoint), and we also went to the one at Duke of York Square in Chelsea, which is an easy bus ride from here. Market stalls set up with food and mulled wine and cider, and there’s usually live entertainment and Father Christmas in his grotto (when you go see Santa in London, you visit Father Christmas in his grotto).
Christmas Light Switch-on at Duke of York Square
Christmas Lights on Regent Street and Carnaby
Regent Street, Oxford Street, and Carnaby comprise the major shopping district of London. No surprise, then, that these streets go all out with their Christmas light and window displays. The angel lights sweeping across Regent Street were my favourite.
Isn’t it lovely to work out outside in the fresh air? I wouldn’t know.
I picked a terrible day to try the BuggyFit class on Clapham Common. It was freezing cold, about as cold as it gets here in London, but I had set my mind on going yesterday morning, and knew a friend who was going, so I layered up and went. By the time I had walked E to nursery school and then walked to the BuggyFit meeting point on the common, I’d already logged over 5,000 steps, half the daily goal on the Fitbit, and it was only 9:30.
There was a fairly large group of women in workout clothes with their baby buggies so they were easy to find. If that many are hardcore enough to come when it’s that cold, it must be a huge class when the weather is nice!
While we waited for the instructor to arrive, some ladies were talking about how the air pollution level is at some crazy high level this week and Londoners are being told not to exercise outdoors. Well, great.
One woman was particularly concerned about it, and kept saying that she wasn’t sure she should participate today, or maybe she just wouldn’t do any running, and yesterday she worked out and then felt like she’d smoked 23 cigarettes (an oddly specific number) for the rest of the day.
“Well what can happen from one hour of exercise today?” I asked her.
“Cancer, early death,” she replied matter-of-factly.
I know you said you don’t want to run but you sound like the grim reaper is right behind you so you might want to rethink that and get a move on, Debbie Downer.
Well, I’d made it this far, I wasn’t going to let a little fear-mongering keep me from getting my workout in, especially since Baby R was sleeping so soundly just then.
The instructor was really nice and very encouraging to everyone, and overall I liked the class. I think I will like it a lot more when the weather and air quality are both better. My one criticism was there was a bit too much waiting in between exercises, so it didn’t keep my heart rate up the entire time. Also, to add to our air quality issues, at one point a large cloud of marijuana smokeengulfed us, thanks to a man on a bench nearby. Though maybe some people would consider that a bonus?
But the price is right: you can buy 10 classes for just £60, which is much cheaper than all the other classes I’ve tried. Especially the one Pilates teacher who wants £20 per class to instruct me to sit there and do my pelvic floor exercises.
I’ve never smoked, so I don’t know if I felt like I’d had 23 cigarettes after my workout, but I did definitely notice how much worse the air is in central London when I went there today. It sort of feels like you’re breathing in car exhaust directly (which I guess you kind of are). Really unpleasant. I always thought smog was worse when it was hot, like when you hear about the smog in LA or Beijing. I didn’t realize it could be this bad when it’s cold, too. Yuck. I’ve been craving a weekend getaway to somewhere, since we haven’t left London in months, and now I feel desperately ready to get out of the city. Cotswolds, take me away!
Best quote: “It’s hard to comfort a baby with boxing gloves on.”
Of the things I’ve done in my life that I’m most proud of, one is the time I wrote a letter to my health insurance about why a woman’s annual gynecological exam should be completely covered, because a man’s annual exam was, and they actually changed the policy because of my letter. One small step for women, at least those on that health insurance. I kept the letter they wrote back to me; I want to be able to tell my daughters one day that I did my part, however minuscule, for women’s rights.
Today I had the privilege of taking part in something much bigger. Today was, quite simply, empowering. What started as a Women’s March on Washington on Trump’s first day as president turned into an international phenomenon, with women’s marches, rallies, and protests happening in hundreds (thousands?) of cities in more than 20 different countries. Dang, girls. Global high fives!
This felt Important with a capital I, and I was not going to miss being a part of it. When Obama was elected in 2008, I was elated. It felt like we were finally starting to get somewhere, electing an African-American president. A big step forward, it felt like. And this year I was so excited to vote for what should have been our first female president. Instead, we somehow went completely backward, electing this misogynist who has managed to offend basically every type of person out there (except for those who voted for him, I guess? I don’t know who those people are? I know you’re there, but you’ve been awfully quiet. If you didn’t want to vote for Clinton, fine. But I would just like to know how in the world could a woman vote for someone who has said such vulgar, degrading things about women?? Your silence is deafening).
The night of the U.S. presidential election, I was hopeful that Clinton would win. Certainly most people I know had voted for her! Then when I woke up around 4 a.m. London time to breastfeed my days-old baby, I checked the New York Times website on my phone and was astonished to see that they were saying it looked like Trump would win. I woke up M to tell him, and we sat there in the dark, horrified of what that means for America and the world. As I fed my newborn daughter, I cried. I cried out of fear for her, for what this says about what so many people apparently think of women, that they would rather vote for someone so clearly unfit for the job of president than vote for a woman.
But today was not just for women, who certainly have every right to be especially pissed off; people of all types are MAD about Trump as president for loads of reasons, and we want our voices to be heard. (If you need me to list the reasons, then you have been living under a rock. “If you aren’t outraged, you aren’t paying attention.”) Well, I think the message was sent loud and clear today.
Since I have a breastfeeding 11-week-old baby, she came along for the march too. I decided to leave my 3-and-a-half-year-old at home with my husband, because I didn’t know what to expect in terms of crowds, public transit issues, and, of course, places for her to use the toilet! I wore Baby R in a carrier so I wouldn’t have to deal with a big buggy and getting it there by public transit by myself, and that was absolutely the right call. I was nervous about running into problems with the various transit systems, since there has been an ongoing train strike, at least one tube line wasn’t running, and buses and cabs would be subject to road closures, but getting there and back home actually went really smoothly! I walked to Clapham Junction, took a train to Vauxhall, changed to the underground Victoria line, and got off at Green Park, where I met my friend Melissa and her 4-year-old daughter. We then walked the rest of the way to Grosvenor Square, where the U.S. Embassy is, for the start of the march.
When I left my house and started walking to Clapham Junction station, I felt a little uncomfortable attracting attention to myself with my big sign in hand, as well as a sign pinned to my baby-carrying coat that declared “Tiny Feminist on Board.” But as I went, I started getting smiles and encouraging words from other women. Then once I got farther into the city, I was joined by lots of other people carrying signs and wearing “pussy hats,” the preferred headwear of the day (I was impressed by the number of pussy hats being sported by men, children, and elderly people as well). Today I spoke to more strangers in London or on public transit than I ever have up till now, combined. There was such a great energy and feeling of solidarity all around.
I came up with what I thought was a pretty clever sign idea, but I wasn’t sure if I should do something that’s funny/sarcastic (though with a serious undertone) in case people thought I was just perpetuating negative stereotypes some men have about women. I decided to go for it, with a simple “Love Trumps Hate” on the other side, and… people LOVED it. I posted it on the Women’s March on London Facebook page and, as of right now, it has gotten more than 2,600 likes and 160 shares. I lost track of the number of people who smiled, laughed, asked to take a picture of it, and said it was their favorite sign they’d seen. Several people even told me they’d seen the picture of it online, or someone had sent it to them! OMG, you guys… I’m trending.
We made it to Grosvenor Square, where we spent the next hour, because it took a long time to funnel all the people out into the road for the march. Eventually the pace picked up and we marched through London toward Trafalgar Square, waving our signs, chanting, and demonstrating against pretty much everything Trump and his supporters stand for.
Baby R slept through just about the whole thing. But someday I will tell her that she was a part of this, and I hope she’s proud, and I hope by then the world is a better place for my daughters and they are treated better than previous generations of women.
And I want to give a big shout-out to those previous generations of women who did so much for women’s rights! What we did today was awesome, but it would not have even happened if it weren’t for the sense of empowerment we were given by our mothers and grandmothers, who first stood up for our gender and taught their daughters to be strong, and to own who they are, and that they are worth every bit as much as men. My own mother is marching in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, today, and I want her to know I am proud of her, and I am grateful for how she raised me.
To all my sisters marching in Washington, D.C., and other cities all around the world today, AND to the many incredible men who support us, you are all amazing. I’ve never seen or felt such a demonstration of love, and unity, and inclusion, and STRENGTH. It gives me hope. Thank you. I am also feeling grateful that I live in a place where I am able to go out and publicly voice my dissent. Today I marched for the women in this world who are far more oppressed than I am and are not able to speak out.
And now, for some photos and favorite signs from the march in London:
In this week’s installment in my quest to find a good workout I can do while I have a baby in tow, I tried two different mum and baby postnatal Pilates classes.
The first was in a pub. Seriously, my baby and I were lying on the floor looking up at a bar. It was a nice upstairs room the Northcote Pub rents out for events, but still, I find that pretty funny.
I liked the class, but it was pretty gentle because it’s for both pregnant and postnatal women. I did it with a friend of mine who is pregnant, and there was one other pregnant woman and one other mum with her baby, so the class was small. I enjoyed it except for the part when R was crying and instead of doing the mat work on the floor that everyone else was doing, I just did squats and stationary lunges while holding her and trying to get her to settle down. Which I could have done at home, for free.
The next day I did a postnatal Pilates workshop by a different teacher in a coffee shop/church called Fresh Ground, which has a stay-and-play area for little ones, as well as a room that gets rented out for things like exercise classes. It was a free trial to drum up interest in her new class, so there were a lot of babies there, some mobile. It was mayhem. It was hard to hear what the instructor was saying at times over the cacophony.
I went with another friend and her 10-month-old, who definitely got a better workout than we did, crawling laps around the room and checking out all the other babies’ toys. And one woman’s iPhone, sorry about that… feel free to delete the pictures she somehow managed to take.
I guess because it was an introductory “workshop,” it was a bit more talking than actual exercising. Lots of focus on postnatal-specific stuff like pelvic floor exercises and being careful of the gap that’s formed in your stomach muscles. I would hope her actual class would have a little less conversation a little more action please, but at 20 quid per class, I won’t be finding out.
And so the search continues. You know what’s a lot more economical than these expensive classes? Doing YouTube workout videos in my guest room.