Once I regained my sight we were up and off on our day out to Bradford Industrial Museum. We have been here many times before. It sounds terribly boring but we can quite easily string it out for a few hours and most importantly it’s free. The kids love the machines, vintage cars, bikes, buses and trains. During term time we often have the place to ourselves and the eager to please staff put the machines on for the children to watch.
I had agreed with my teacher friend, mother of three to set off at 10.45 so we would arrive at 11.00. Knowing her well I set off late. As I drove past her house at 11.05 she was still folding her children into the car. It turns out she’d started packing the car at 10.20 but a series of events including a down the leg poo caused delay.
Today there was an exhibition at the museum. Bradford Model Engineers Society, Centenary Exhibition to be exact which was a ‘magnificent display of over a hundred models made by members past and present’. Old men sporting large rimmed jam jar bottom glasses chatted amongst themselves and pointed enthusiastically at large notices saying ‘DO NOT TOUCH’. Why they chose half term to have this exhibition is beyond me, the 30 or so models were all but waving and shouting ‘touch me’ with their buttons, switches and flaps. It was all too much for my octopus armed children. I had visions of a boat creation which took six years to painstakingly construct out of matchsticks and a pair of tweezers laying on the floor in a million pieces.
We quickly moved on to the transport section which has a rope which you are not to go beyond. I decided to tell my children that if they went past the rope an alarm would sound and we would get into trouble. We decided to count the cars, I turned to speak to the 4 year old and suddenly a loud alarm went off. I turned back to find the 2 year old standing on the other side of the rope three steps from a Penny Farthing grinning right at me like a demon. Moving swiftly on once more we managed a fairly civilised lunch (as civilised as it gets with five children aged 4 and under) before moving upstairs to the textile floor.
Because my teacher friend, mother of three has a pushchair we have to go upstairs in an industrial lift which can only be operated by a museum employee. From our many visits before I know the drill; find someone wearing a badge and ask them to escort us up and then agree a time for them to come back to collect us. The woman who took us up agreed to come back for us 15 minutes later. The boys ran round and round the textile machines whilst my friend discussed the finer points of child labour with the 4 year old girls and told them how grateful they should be that they don’t have to crawl around, risking death and disfigurement to collect fluff from under machines (no doubt a conversation which will come back to haunt me some time over the next few days due to the 4 year olds obsession with death).
After 25 minutes we realised that the lift lady had forgotten about us. After 30 minutes, ten rounds of ‘The Wheels On The Bus’ and a dancing show by the 4 year olds, we realised we were trapped with a party of people escorted by an NHS worker and five restless children on the textiles floor. The NHS worker rapidly moved his group to another room when one of them muttered something about the children running around making noise in a disparaging manner. It was then that I realised that these people were probably on a day trip with their mental health worker and five unruly children could have pushed them over the edge. Who knows what damage a schizophrenic could have inflicted on our children with an 18th century bobbin. I went down the mill stairs to seek out the lift operator who had vanished. Another kindly worker released us 5 minutes later.
We went back to teacher friend, mother of three’s house for play followed by some phonics for the girls, train tracking for the boys, bun baking, drawing, CBeebies, bun decorating and fishfinger tea. A plethora of activity which is common practice when we visit; anything less and my friend would feel that she hadn’t satisfied our every need. She is Wonder Woman. When visiting our house her standards are lowered, they would be lucky to find a doll with all its limbs, let alone a paintbrush or enough fishfingers for five.
We returned home tired and happy. The children have gone to bed without argument but with several yawns. On putting their clothes in the wash basket I found that the kleptomaniac had struck again. Concealed in the 2 year olds jumper pocket was a £50p rainbow coloured Industrial Museum rubber … I’m just glad it wasn’t a Penny Farthing pedal.