Day 234

Level 2 Chi Kung.

For the last week or so, Katie has been talking about wanting to have ‘a perfect day’ with just the two of us. Since we were both badly in need of a trip to the hairdresser, I suggested a Bayswater day, in which we go back to our old stamping ground, go to the hairdresser, wander around the shops or the park (depending on weather) and then have either lunch or dinner at Katie’s favourite restaurant, the Notting Hill branch of Carluccio’s. Katie agreed that a Bayswater day would be just the thing, and I called the hairdresser and booked us both in for 3:30pm on Sunday.

Partly because she loves going to the hairdresser (on account of the pampering and free biscuits), and partly for ease of dealing with her curls, Katie greatly prefers to keep her hair quite short. However she kindly agreed to grow it for a few months to allow me to take some portraits of her with her hair up. I was thinking of something like this:

Photographer Takes Portraits of Her 5 Year Old Daughter Dressed as Famous Women from History

Photographer Takes Portraits of Her 5-Year-Old Daughter Dressed as Famous Women from History.

I had begun to draw up with a list, for discussion with Katie obviously, of notable women whose portraits I would like to duplicate: Marie Curie, Georgia O’Keefe, Florence Nightingale, Kate Sheppard, Doris Lessing, George Elliot, Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Jacqueline Du Pre, Jane Goodall, Dian Fossey… But somehow the project never felt quite right – there was no momentum behind it and, as the months passed and Katie’s hair grew longer, it gradually morphed into simply wanting to record her perfect seven year old self. Even that didn’t get done however as she seemed to have a succession of minor scratches on her face which I really didn’t want to immortalise. Now, though, the hairdresser was booked, so it had to be this morning – or never. Fortunately Katie loves having her photo taken, so was happy for our perfect day to include a photo shoot.

With Nick off on a long bike ride, certain other things had to be taken care of first, but as soon as I had made a mountain of toast for Jack and pancakes with maple syrup for Dash and Katie, I went upstairs and laid out clothes for Katie, then set up the tripod and got out a range of props (mostly jewellery and scarves but also, in a nod to the original idea, a lab coat, paint brush and oils, and Katie’s cello. Katie was the perfect model, and sat patiently, looking in whatever direction I indicated and needing only an occasional break to get the requisite giggling done. I was very pleased with the pictures – now I just need to bite the bullet and buy Photo Ninja so I can get the raws onto the Mac.

We spent longer than planned taking photographs, so I called the salon and asked if we could move the appointment to 3:30pm, partly so that we would have time for dim sum at the Royal China beforehand. They were happy to oblige. We headed off and got as far as Waterloo before we experienced our first setback – discovering that there is still (STILL) no change to the Central Line at Bond Street. Katie dislikes the underground, so she was a bit put out that this would mean three underground trains instead of two ON OUR PERFECT DAY. However the third train arrived straight away and a man moved so that we could sit together and, as we chatted, she squeezed my hand and said ‘Actually Mummy, it hasn’t ruined our perfect day, because it’s quite nice having the extra time to chat’. I agreed, while inside my heart sang at this indication of my wee girl adopting a mindset which will give her the best chance of a happy and mentally healthy life. We arrived at Queensway Station to find one of the lifts out of action, and had a joke about the lift being broken when we moved out and, two and a half years later, it’s still not fixed! Delayed by the train problems and the long wait for the one functional lift, we finally reached the restaurant at about 2:40pm, only to find a long queue of people waiting for tables. It is quite usual to find people queueing out the door and right down the street if you show up at noon on a weekend day, but after 2pm one would normally expect to get straight in. We were told that there would be a 20 minute wait for a table and (knowing that it would likely be much longer, given that the Royal China has no tables that seat less than four and FCFS counts for nothing if they have the option to get four diners seated instead of two) I explained to Katie that that wouldn’t really give us time to eat before we had to leave for the hairdresser. Katie looked a bit downcast at the idea of missing out on the long awaited prawn crackers but then we both had the idea of getting the food to take away and eating it in the park. In the end they took so long to get the food sorted (unusual – they are normally very very fast) that we ended up having to take it with us to the hairdresser. Fortunately the place was almost deserted, our stylist wasn’t ready for us, and the only other customer had a little girl with her who was very keen to share our prawn crackers. So we made ourselves at home on the sofa and nibbled happily on our dim sum.

Katie got her hair cut into a short layered bob and then made friends with the new receptionist and danced around the salon with her while I waited for my colour to work and then while I relaxed in the huge leather massaging chair getting my hair washed and scalp massaged. Bliss.

A spot of shopping, then off to Carluccio’s where Katie had her favourite: penne with butter and parmesan. They bring the penne out with only melted butter on it and then offer a sprinkle of parmesan from a lidded bowl. Katie somewhat startled the waitress: each time the waitress paused, or asked if Katie would like more parmesan, Katie said ‘Yes, please’, very politely, until the bowl was empty. At one point, the waitress looked over at me as if to say ‘She can’t really want more, can she?’ but I just nodded and said ‘She really likes parmesan.’. Later, having eaten every scrap, Katie announced ‘Well Mummy, they haven’t lost their touch.’.

We decided to take the bus back to Charing Cross rather than tangle with the underground again, which went well right up until we got into ChX and discovered that NO trains were running at all. I felt sorry for the poor staff, who had obviously drawn the short straw, having to hang around the station all evening telling travellers that there were no trains and trying to work out alternative ways to get them to their destinations. One had clearly decided to make the best of it.

Cheery staff member: Do you two ladies need any help?
J: Well, we’ve just been told to go to Canon Street because there are no trains.
CSM: That’s right. No trains. And what a thing to happen to two beautiful ladies on a day out together. Where are you trying to get to?
J and K: Blackheath
CSM: Blackheath, that’s lovely. Just go out that side door, turn right, walk down to Embankment and take the circle line to Canon Street.
J: Thank you.
K: What a nice man!

So, definitely a perfect day. For what could be more perfect than a day on which someone you love learns that not everything has to go right for it to be a perfect day?

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