In the end the Model Village won. I have to admit I was instrumental in the decision. All that tiresome post-petting handwashing at Bunny World (yes, really) and the big draughty barn and the hyper-gift-shop with its legions of pink fluffy toys. Anyway, I picked my daughter up at lunchtime after nursery school, whizzed home (inasmuch as you can whizz in Kensington traffic, which, particularly in the morning rush hour, is reminiscent of the final stage of the Tour de France, or that Sylvester Stallone film where they mow people down for points), and then whizzed back, after realizing we had left her bag at the school gate. I say we, but in my daughter’s eyes it was of course my fault, and an unforgivable lapse at that. It wasn’t so much forgetting a bag as abandoning Dora the Explorer (river!; lake!; MAGIC CASTLE!!), whose pink face gurns from its flap. Anyway, after rescuing Dora, and a light lunch of ham and olive sandwiches, we set out for Beaconsfield and the Model Village.
If there’s anything more pleasant than whirring silently along an empty road (there’s a button on the Prius’s dashboard bearing the ghostly outline of an italic car, which, when depressed, means it does its utmost to travel only on electricity, and which the owner’s manual advises, with typical Japanese benevolence, is ideally to be used in built up areas late at night to avoid annoying the neighbours), warmed by shyly emerging spring sunshine, fragments of nursery rhymes floating forward from the back seat, then I haven’t come across it.
As usual, the Lilliputian splendour that is the Model Village doesn’t disappoint. It is our first visit of the year and while my daughter races round and round following the model railway I complete a leisurely circuit, engrossed in the attention to detail and workmanship. Other groups move around the village at a similar speed. Generally mums on their own with children, or mums in groups with children. Or mums and grandparents with children (“Pleeease don’t give Johnny chocolate grandpa…”). There is never another dad with his children. I’m used to it after nearly two years, but I still wonder where they all are. They exist, I know. There are possibly millions of stay at home dads, judging by all the blogs. But I never meet any. So my childcare is just her and me. No friends to drop by on. No coffee mornings. No girly lunches. Still, I’m mostly happy that way. And my daughter seems to be too.
As we sit munching Wagonwheels together at the end of our tour, I ask her “What’s your favourite thing at the Model Village?” She looks quizzical for a few moments. “Eating”, she replies, straight-faced.