The advantage of my daily commute to the heart of the midlands is that it doesn’t feel very far away, and so if there’s something fun on at the weekend, it feels easy to load the kids onto the train and head off for an adventure. Which is exactly what we did on Sunday. We left John to get ready for the second of the weekend’s hockey matches and the kids and I went to Birmingham’s Chinese Quarter to see if we could find a lion or a dragon or two. Kitty’s nursery were very keen on celebrating Chinese New Year; to be honest they celebrated everything in the spirit of equality, but Chinese New Year meant lots of crafting with red paper and gold glitter, Chinese food for lunch and for the older kids, performing a little dragon dance for the toddlers and babies. I think she missed it when she headed off to school.
She is a Tiger, Elma is a Dragon and Pip a Horse, while John and I are the suitably mischievous as a pair of monkeys. As, I now know, is the Lord Mayor of Birmingham.
We started our day at the main stage to watch the opening ceremonies, including the spotting of the new Birmingham Lion, a wonderfully furry monster in pale blue and white who ‘came alive’ when the mayor dotted in his final eye. We’d managed to wiggle our way through the crowds pretty well, and with Kitty holding on to a railing, Elma perched on top of it holding onto me, and Pip in the sling on my back, we all had a pretty good view despite the rain. Nothing could quite prepare us for the firecrackers though; they rattled off as the lions came to life bouncing and prancing all over the stage.
With four lions and one dragon under our belts we found another one, this time mechanical, with a handle to turn to move each little bit and an open invitation to come and play. It was set outside the Hippodrome which was running a whole loads of free activities. They had stands to sit and make a rooster mask or a chinese lantern but after watching for a bit I realised that we were in for a long wait to get all three sat down at once, and that my chances of getting three lanterns home in any state approaching dry and uncrushed was more than I could realistically hope for, so after committing the method to memory we went to play with the Lego and have a nice sit down out of the wet and wind.
And when rumbling tummies pushed us back out in search of food I promise our first intentions were to find some actual Chinese food from one of the street stalls. The problem was that after 10 minutes in the queue for dumplings we hadn’t actually moved. In fact, in the time it took us to leave the queue, go and queue up for Thai food, get the food and come back we still wouldn’t have moved more than a pace forward. It was full on culture clash; eating Thai food (and then churros) at Chinese New Year celebrations on what was an unmistakably British winter’s day while the rain pattered down and the corners of the marquee dripped.
Our next escape was to the Birmingham Royal Ballet, whose family taster day included trying on costumes and dancing a rooster dance. Kitty loved it, and while I haven’t put it in our film of the day’s adventures because there are obviously other kids in it, I do now have proof that Kitty once danced with members of the Birmingham Royal Ballet. She made the cutest chicken.
We made our way back to the main stage at the point when the weather was at its worst and the only audience watching the classes of a mandarin school sing their hearts out were their devoted parents. But it meant that Kitty and Elma could creep forward to the very front to be in the perfect spot for the finale that followed; a face changer with phenomenal sleight of hand, to the point that I only worked out how he was doing it by watching the video slowly, and another lion.
And when that lion roared, you could feel it in every bone in your body; it was incredibly skilful and the perfect way to end our day out.
Well almost, because as you’ll see, it may have inspired my Dragon and Tiger to be little lions instead: