One of the places to visit on my London list was also located in Bethnal Green – Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood. Not to be confused with THE Victoria & Albert Museum. The V&A of Childhood is free and consists of 2 levels, housing examples of all sorts of toys from decades past. The display cases were somewhat themed by decade and style of toy (ie: tin wind-up toys, puppets, etc) but there were other cases that just seemed to hold a hodge-podge of items. I methodically went through the entire place because I didn’t want to miss anything that might be of interest; row upon row of display cabinets with various small objects – it can get tedious after a while. As small as this place is, it would have been really helpful to have had a guidebook of sorts.
“On Their Own: Britain’s Child Migrants” was an exhibition exploring the life of children who were sent overseas to Commonwealth countries between 1869 & 1970. British children were sent to Australia, Canada & South Africa by charities, religious organizations & governments with the prospect of a “better life.” Often these kids were orphans, ill, or from poor / single parent families who could no longer look after them. Unfortunately, many of these children never saw their families again, were often abused & forced into labour. While a few were adopted or treated as part of the family, most of them faced cruel hardships in these new countries. Canada alone received over 85,000 children, who were placed mainly in the Maritimes, Ontario & Quebec. Below is a board game that a child either brought with them or played (I can’t remember) called “Across Canada” (although it’s really more like “Across Canada & The United States Too”). I can’t find any information about this game, but it looks like you just have to move your piece up and down the numbered squares to get to the end. Seems a bit long & boring. Kind of like Canada (kidding!)
Let’s move on to a lighter note: below we have some mechanical toys. Although I feel “toys” may be somewhat subjective here, because seriously those Renaissance monkeys are not something I would ever want to play with, let alone have in my house. Look at their hollow eyes! These things were intended to MOVE!? Nope, nope, nope. That is just like a bad horror movie waiting to happen. Well all know that realistic looking wind-up toys and Victorian dolls are creepy as hell and will come to life during power-outages and thunderstorms. Errr…moving on.
My favourite part was the miniatures & dollhouses, because everything is better in tiny form. Below we have some teeny pandas working in a confectioners – because why not? Strewn through-out were several interactive areas where kids could try out toys and games from by-gone eras, such as this old fashion kitchen setting. It was basically just a table with tin plates & cups, but if kids today have any ounce of imagination left in them, surely they could come up with something big. That backdrop tho. It is not all fun & games in the Museum of Childhood: the stern hand of education clamps down forcefully to teach children the basics of reading & writing. Check out this cool cabinet with all the little letter tiles! Endless hours of fun! Although perhaps not for kids of the days of yore; I’m sure they loathed the letter cabinet, just as the youth of today loathe penmanship practice. …do they even do that anymore or is it just laptops and texting 101?
There were several toys around the museum that were meant to function if you put in 20p. Most of them were “out of order” (really? really?) or in the case of this robot, just flat out impossible to use because of missing parts. Apparently connecting all the cogs would light it up or something. There were like 3 cogs, so either someone has stolen the cogs or hidden them. Stupid kids. Taking away from my enjoyment. On a side note, this robot reminds me of a Dalek, but with legs. Now, can I talk for a minute about stickle bricks? The only reason I took this photo was to mention how much I hate them. Like legitimately when I saw them I became disgusted. It’s like they’re trying to be Lego or something, but everything you build just looks super crappy. They just make me so annoyed!
I passed a butchers or some sort of meat shop in Bethnal Green that had dead chickens hanging on a rack outside the front window. I made a point of walking back past it on the way to the station because I wanted to take a picture. I mean, I guess it’s pretty normal over here, but they still have their feathers on and everything. So I tried to think of the most inconspicuous way to stop an take a photo and realized that there wasn’t one. My main concern was that the guy would come out and demand I buy I chicken if I wanted to take pictures. I got the camera ready – ok, ok it’s coming up – slowed my walk slightly, took one snap, kept going & hoped that it would turn out. Success!
We were staying in Peckham, which is south of the Thames, Zone 2 on the Tube. Peckham Rye station is like the skeeziest place ever; located down a dank, ill-lit alleyway, it legit smelled like pee. The only reason we went into the station was to check the balance on my Oyster card (a tap & go card that you can use on any transport in London), since we took the bus into Peckham. Coming out of the hovel-alley brought us onto Rye Lane, which is a colourful stretch of street & a very culturally diverse area. There were tantalizing stalls (such as the one pictured above), many bric-a-brac shops that were just crammed full of all kinds of stuff, stalls made out of cardboard boxes, reggae music blaring, people shouting, horns honking, food sizzling, etc. Sensory overload. Then there were some slightly dodgy looking places: such as the shop with only 5 freezes and the name of the shop written in tape along the back wall. There were still people “shopping” in there, rooting through the freezers. That is super concerning. Seriously, it looked like someone had just broke into a derelict building and started selling stuff. And then once you get to the end of the street everything just sort of…calms down and fades off into semi-detached homes & green space. And hipster gastro-pubs (such as the one pictured above).
As if I hadn’t had enough cats already, here on the left is Silly (aka Jonathan), the cat belonging to the friends we stayed with; or as I dubbed him: Sir Chubby-Tubbs, The Earl of Sandwich. He is quite agile for a rotund cat. Then on the right is a mystery cat – that white blob just off centre. We thought someone was throwing stuff at our window and when we opened the curtain, this cat was sitting on the division wall staring at us. He looked eerily like Wolf-Cat.