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Posts Tagged ‘Manchester Museum’

I am almost 40 weeks pregnant. For anyone who isn’t pregnant and thus doesn’t count a life in weeks, this means my baby is almost cooked. She’s due tomorrow. I was convinced she’d be early, just like Milo, and I’ve been expecting her arrival since January. But she has given me an early warning that I am not to presume anything at all about her: that she is her own person and will make an appearance when she is good and ready.

I haven’t the heart to tell her that the medical profession may see it differently. If she doesn’t get a wriggle on soon it’ll be the Oxytocin drip for her; a tidal wave of chemical hormones designed to dislodge her no matter how bloody-minded she feels like being.

God, I’m good at creating bloody-minded children. I should get some sort of award.

I keep thinking, too, that Things Are Happening. I spent most of yesterday on the verge of tears, unable to settle to anything, and experiencing some impressive Braxton Hicks (practice contractions) that went on through the night. And this morning, instead of a slow ramping up of pain: nothing. Nadda. Back to square one. I feel like I’m going to be pregnant forever.

To take our minds off things we decide to go to Manchester Museum. The place is mobbed: buggies, children, harassed-looking parents, and wild, waddling women with a glint in the eye that says ‘mess with me at your peril’. And that’s just the three of us.

We scoot around the dinosaur section, say hello to Stan the T.Rex, decide that we would quite like dinosaurs to still be around – even if it means the occasional human ends up as dino fodder – and look at Milo’s latest interest: the solar system. For the first time in my life I not only know the names of all the planets but the dwarf planets too, and a fair few of their moons. I am thinking of naming my daughter Eris or Ceres. Or, if she doesn’t bloody well hurry up, I may just call her Uranus.

Blood sugar reaching perilous lows, we head to a chaotic café for lunch. I join a queue that snakes along the length of the cafe, wincing periodically as the air is sliced by the jagged voices of hungry children. After a while, I tune into the conversation of the couple behind me.

‘It’s terrible,’ hisses the man, and my ears prick up.

‘All those coats.’

The woman next to him murmurs something placatory.

‘No, but honestly, all those coats and bags and… and stuff, just everywhere.’

The man is muttering, his voice a pent-up, vicious whisper that indicates it’ll take more than a latte and double chocolate muffin to cheer him up. 

‘And the chairs, just pulled out with all those coats hanging off them. I mean, would it hurt just to pull them in a little, to be a bit more tidy?’

I am so confused I turn around and eyeball him. He meets my gaze blankly. And when I turn back round he carries on berating the people in the café for the apparently heinous social crime of taking their coats off while they eat.

At this point the woman behind the counter spots my enormous pregnant belly and beckons me over.

‘You don’t have to queue,’ she says, ‘we can’t have you standing there like that.’

I am whisked to the front and, just this once, being so close to my due date does apparently come with benefits. As I am waved to the head of the queue like gestating royalty, the look of outraged horror that contorts the face of the coat-hating man behind me – well, put it this way: it’s a look that made me laugh so much I’m hoping its recollection will see me through the un-funniest parts of childbirth.

Above: Help, mummy’s cross again. Simon and Milo make a run for it.

Ratings. Babychanging facilities: Yes. Cafe: Kids’ menu but be warned: it’s expensive and very busy at weekends. There’s a free picnic area on the top floor if budgets and space are tight. Buggy-friendly? Yes, although you can also park your buggy in the foyer (they also have lockers for coats and bags). Cost: Free. Worth it? Yes.

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I’ve timed things perfectly. As we arrived at Manchester Museum, Milo dropped off, taking full advantage of his swanky new pushchair to drift into a long sleep. I peer down at him and smile: his nap means I have a precious hour or so to have a coffee, read and eat. Heck, I might even have a moment to contemplate life.

Sitting in the empty Play & Learn Centre, I bask in the peaceful quiet. I do love Milo, but, god, it’s great when he’s asleep.

Just then, I hear a clattering of feet. The floor protests at the unexpected weight of several dozen pairs of school shoes, creaking and squeaking as they jumble along. I look up and sigh. I’d forgotten it was term time. Draining my coffee, I pack up and wheel Milo away.

I’m not having a bunch of noisy bag swinging kids wake him up, I think.

I breathe a sigh of relief as the lift doors shut, sealing out the chattering children, and then wince as a ‘BING BONG’ is followed by a very loud ‘LEVEL 2. DOORS OPENING.’

‘Why does everything have to be so bloody loud?’ I grumble to myself.

I peer out of the lift and, spotting a crocodile of primary school pupils by the Egyptian mummies, head instead towards the Mammals Gallery. I’m stopped in my tracks when I hear the unmistakable squeals of a party of toddlers. None so noisy as the under threes, I reason, and instead wheel Milo straight ahead.

We find ourselves in a tiny, dark gallery that’s partitioned off from the main space by paper-thin walls. I wedge us into a corner. A woman wanders in, gives me a strained smile, and walks quickly away. I realise I’m standing in the dark, looking at the wall and scowling. It’s not a good look.

‘OK, nothing for it but the dinosaurs,’ I mutter, braving the BING BONG of the lift to get downstairs.

And there, amongst the metriorhynchids and Triassic coal forests, I find the blissful quiet I’ve been searching for. Milo slumbers on as I wander to the window. There, in the quadrangle beyond, I spot a gothic tower, shuttered and silent. I remember reading about the Museum advertising for a hermit, someone to occupy a tower just like the one I’m looking at. No contact with the outside world, just hours and days stretching ahead, filled only by… well, nothing.

‘Do you think there’s still time to apply?’ I whisper to my sleeping babe.

Just then, a terrible toddler runs the full length of the dinosaur hall, screaming. Milo winces in his sleep, and flicks his head from side to side. Time to move on.

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Ratings. Babychanging facilities: Yes. Cafe: Yes, with a decent kids’ menu. Buggy-friendly? Yes. Cost: Free. Worth it? Yes, lots of activities at the weekends for older kids, too.

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I love museums. And galleries. Lock me up in a library and I’ll happily spend the rest of my days in thrall to all those ancient tomes, dust mites and pages and pages of possibility.

This love of all things cultural I owe to my mum and dad. Not because they dragged me kicking and screaming to every National Trust pile within driving distance. They didn’t – to be honest, they were far too busy running their fledgling bakery. Buns, flour, dough and deliveries occupied their waking hours.

No, mum and dad sent me to what must have been the most enlightened primary school in the Midlands. Alongside the usual (yawn) reading, writing and arithmetic, we had art and music ‘appreciation’ lessons. Every year, the whole school would pack up and take the train to London. Disembarking at St. Pancras, we’d form little blue-and-white-uniformed crocodiles that trugged across to the National Gallery. One of my earliest memories is on one such trip, standing in front of a painting, and being completely and utterly beguiled.

So it makes perfect sense to me to drag Milo (often kicking, sometimes screaming) to every museum and gallery Greater Manchester has to offer. So far, so good: his general reaction to such outings is to thrash his arms, wriggle his legs and give a Beavis and Butthead-style giggle. This, in Milo speak, means I Like It Here Very Much.

And so we found ourselves in Manchester Museum. It’s one of my all-time favourite such establishments. Inside, you’ll find a full-size replica of a T.Rex. There’s the Mammals Hall which, as the name suggests, is full of Victorian display cases stuffed to the gills with, um, stuffed animals. Upstairs lie several mummies, whose dessicated remains I always, always hurry past. (I swear they come alive at night.)

On our last visit, we bumped into an acquaintance.

‘Have you been to the play and learn centre?’ he asked.

‘The play and what?’

He kindly directed me to the top floor. There, in the atrium above the Mammals Hall, Milo and I found what appeared to be a remarkably well-appointed living room. Sofas, scatter cushions, colourful rugs for the parents. Activity tables, museum objects to draw, books and toys for the kids. Even tables, chairs and highchairs for an impromptu picnic.

There was no one up there bar me and Milo. All it needed was a TV in the corner playing endless re-runs of Friends and I’d have felt right at home.

‘Hey, what do you think of this?’ I asked Milo as he began gnawing the edges of a book.

‘Hurr-hurr hurr-hurr,’ he replied, chucking the book halfway across the room with a grin.

Well, would you look at that, I thought. Milo loves museums almost as much as I do.

Ratings. Babychanging facilities: Yes. Cafe: Yes, with highchairs. Buggy-friendly? Yes. Staff: Friendly. Cost: Free. Worth it? Yes, loads of activities, kid-friendly displays plus that play and learn centre.

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