During London’s “heatwave” the other week I made an impulse purchase in a toy store. A set of water pistols. Not just any water pistols though, Nerf Super-Soakers. My son, who’s three next week, loves them. And who wouldn’t? They’re fantastic! When its hot and there’s ready access to a pool, or water play area then what better way to cool down and have fun than to soak one another with water guns? Of course, you do have to watch out for squirting too close to little faces and other kids in the playground can grow jealous of such a cool toy, but all in all, they’re great. And I did say “I got a set”. We have three super-soakers so if there are friends we’re meeting up with – or even new ones we make in the park, then there’s a few to go round. Brilliant!
I’ll add that I am always cautious about offering any other kid a toy gun to play with as I know it’s a contentious issue and I don’t want to start a rift in any family, or playground for that matter. So, unless I know the family’s take on the subject I’ll ask first if it’s OK for their child to play with one of the super-soakers. My wife has assured me many times now that there are studies that demonstrate there’s no proven link with toy guns and gun crime and that young boys can actually benefit from playing with them… but that’s getting off point.
This purchase came about after a variety of other “impulse purchases” of other – small, “cheap” water pistols. The last time I bought some, they also were a set of three. Out of the package only one worked; a second one was temperamental, and the other was a complete dud; not to mention that the one that did work broke the moment it was dropped on the ground and leaked water down your hand.
The Nerf Super-Soakers on the other hand, are well made, rugged and water combat ready. We’ve used them A LOT these past few weeks. Whether in our local park or if we’ve taken them on an outing to meet up for play dates, they’ve always proven a fun – and literally, very cool – distraction. And not just for the kids. It’s never long before the adults are vying for a bit of soaking action themselves.
So, today I had the task of taking my son out for the day whilst my wife worked from home with three other colleagues in our inner-city flat – nutting out the finishing touches on this web site. My mother had just arrived to stay with us this morning, fresh off the plane from Sydney, so I had to encourage her weary body out too. It also turned out to be the hottest day of the year clocking in at 34.2 degrees Celcius (that’s 93.6F)
After going for coffee at Monmouth in Borough Market (the first thing my Mother wanted to do) we took a relaxed stroll along the Southbank. We stopped occasionally. First to listen a some buskers outside Shakespeare’s Globe, then to chase the enormous bubbles being made by a guy outside the Tate Modern and then to play in the sand on “Dirty Beach” in front of Gabriel’s Wharf. After “helping” the sand sculptors with their crocodile our littlest one got an ice-cream then we all made our way across Waterloo Bridge to Somerset House for lunch.
Somerset House is a gem of a place. Tucked away on the North side of the Thames, under Aldgate and opposite the National Theatre. A beautiful old building that has often been (and still is) used as a film location with a large courtyard in the centre. There are galleries, restaurants and cafe’s but its the courtyard thats the big attraction for families with young kids. There is a fabulous water-play area that has shooting jet fountains right in the centre. On hot days its a great family destination as parents can sit around the perimeter of the (mostly) contained courtyard while the kids run amuck in the fountains. It actually all feels very European – a lot like an Italian piazza.
When we arrived to Somerset House, my soon-to-be-three year old was hungry and tired but at the same time eager to play in the water. After the struggle of getting him out of his clothes and into some bathers, then the torture of getting some sunscreen on him, he was ready to play. But then he saw the kids nearby had water pistols – not the Nerf Super-Soakers like ours, but big, serious looking, exciting ones none-the-less – and he wanted them… And if he couldn’t have theirs, then he really wanted his water pistols. Of course, today I’d left them at home.
So… After some serious sobbing we sat down in the shade and talked about how much fun the water fountains looked; he didn’t want to play in the fountains. We talked about getting some food; he didn’t want any food. He just wanted the water pistols. “Oh”, I said. And we sat in silence for a little while. Then I got a nibble. “I’d like to play in the water fountains now”, said my little man, very gently. “Great!”, I said, “Let’s go!”. So, off we went with super enthusiasm from big and the slightest amount from small.
We walked around the fountains for a bit, got a little wet and while every other kid was running about like a loon, my son was moping like rejected Romeo. “Let’s get something to eat,” suddenly he says to me “I’d like an apple”. And off we headed to Tom’s Deli.
We sat down at one of the refectory style tables and my mother, a former primary school teacher, but really a performer at heart entertained with napkins and the plastic cutlery. When she’d finished her juice she set about making a small hole in the lid of the bottle with a plastic fork. “It’s to make a squirter”, she says to me, nonchalantly, while I continue with my chicken and salad. I’d hoped junior would have had some too, but for the time he only wanted the apple and juice.
When we had finished eating we made our way back out to the fountains – this time with a much happier little boy. I took the “juice bottle squirter” to the fountains to fill up and demonstrated how to make it squirt. Then, I handed it to him with the hope of a pesamist. He squeezed the bottle and a perfect stream of water spurted out. An enormous smile spread across his face and that was that. He was off and no-one with any kind of water projecting device could topple him. He had his own hand held water cannon and was absolutely delighted.
After both of us got suitably soaked I took a moment off to check in with my mother who had been watching in the shade at the edge of the courtyard. “See”, she says, “You don’t need fancy things to have a good time.” “No,” I say, “Your squirter has worked brilliantly.” “Perhaps you can write about that on your website”, she offers. “Maybe”, I say. “Maybe”.