Posts Tagged ‘Whitworth Art Gallery’

Everyone is entitled to an off day, right? Even Milo, usually the star of the show thanks to his tendency to make like a giddy kipper. And the day starts well: we throw ourselves around a bouncy castle for a bit before Milo slips into a blissful snooze.

He wakes to find himself being trundled along Upper Brook Street.

‘Dar!’ he shouts.

When I don’t reply, he shouts louder, ‘Dar! DAR!’

Milo is pointing to the cars. This being the middle of Manchester, there are lots. When I don’t give praise for each utterance, he gets cross. By the time we reach our destination, which takes a while as I manage to get lost, Milo is practically exploding with unappreciated ‘dars’.

‘DAR! DAR!’ he says as I bounce the buggy in through the doors of Gabriel’s Kitchen.

‘Dar. DAR DAR DAR!’ he shouts as I attempt to release him from both coat and harness.

Everyone turns to stare. I try not to turn red and sweaty. As Milo races up and down the formerly peaceful café-cum-restaurant, my cheeks prickle with pinky-purple shame. I used to be terribly, terribly shy and sometimes I get flashbacks, a physical reminder of what it was like to be a ruddy and round-faced teenager growing up in the Midlands. It’s made all the worse by the fact that the man who runs the place, Peter Booth, recognises me. I’m writing a review and thought it might be fun to bring Milo.

And Milo is having fun. He refuses to get in his high chair, so I let him sit on my lap. He smashes a glass. We read a book while the nice lady clears up the splintered shards. Milo throws the book on the floor, wriggles off my lap and makes a run for it. When his food arrives, he throws that all over the floor, too, followed shortly afterwards by his spoon and, then, my fork.

Peter Booth ambles over. I read somewhere that his Scouse accent is so thick it could peel potatoes but I disagree: having spent 10 years in Liverpool, it’s wonderfully reassuring. And the fact that the café is named after his young son, and the fact that he really doesn’t seem to mind Milo’s complete lack of interest in his lovingly crafted food, is also quite comforting.

‘Would he like some fruit?’

Peter brings over a baby-sized portion of fruit salad. Milo throws it on the floor, grape by apple slice. And then rubs the sticky juice in his hair. And then, finally, eats something: half a grape.

It’s at this point I decide to leave. Milo and I head down Hathersage Road, leg it around Whitworth Park and then head for the art gallery. Inside, Milo becomes inconsolable, which may have something to do with the fact that he’s had no lunch, and I find myself becoming pink and sweaty again as disapproving glances are cast my way. Blushing, I reason, is like the Number 86. You can stand about for ages, all pale-cheeked and calm, and then, all of a sudden, several blushes bear down on you, one after the other in quick succession.

Just before we head home, I spot Milo and me in a mirror. There we are, a mother and son double act, and both of us with bright pink cheeks.

‘At least I don’t dribble like you,’ I say to Milo as he reaches up and smacks me heartily in the face. ‘Come on, time to go home.’


Ratings. Babychanging facilities: Not yet but they should have within weeks. Cafe: It’s a restaurant with a very good kids’ menu, plus the chefs will adapt the adult’s menu if your little one fancies anything specific. All local, organic and sustainable produce where possible. Buggy-friendly? Yes, though a little small. Cost: Mid-price menu, £5 for a main, dessert and drink for kiddies. Worth it? Yes, excellent food and nice, friendly staff, plus colouring-in kits for older kiddies.

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Milo, sporting a slightly garish, red-and-blue striped top, is legging it around the Whitworth. He is squealing in delight. The cause of his pleasure is the gallery itself: not so much the artworks hanging within but its wide-open spaces. To his tiny eyes, the polished wooden floor is a baby-friendly autobahn that he’s free to roar up and down as fast as he possibly can.

As we wander into the sunlit south gallery, Milo lets out an almighty scream. The people sitting on the nearby benches give a collective wince, and Simon hurriedly scoops Milo up and bustles him away.

‘Why d’you do that?’ I ask, but I know why.

Simon has a sense of shame; I lost mine around the time that half of Trafford General got a good look at Milo as he squirmed his way into the world.

We take Milo into a textiles exhibition, and he is temporarily entranced by the sight of an artwork that, laid out on the floor, is made up of hundreds of coloured buttons. His eyes goggle; his mouth falls open.
And then he runs towards it, chubby hands outstretched. I know what he’s thinking. He doesn’t want to look at the buttons. He wants to eat them.

I distract Milo by showing him another, safer (and wall-hung) artwork, but he’s more interested in the rope barrier in front of it, quickly working out that if he simply walks into the rope it will stretch and he’ll be able to reach the jewel-like artwork beyond.

So we move into the next room. On the wall hang square panels of fabric, lit from below by a bank of lights. Now, Milo has a bit of a thing for lights. And, assuming these lights will be covered, I let him waddle over to them while I look at the caption on the wall.

‘Er, no, no, don’t do that!’

The attendant rushes over. Simon, whose lightening reflexes are, frankly, suspicious, moves Milo away as the attendant points out that the lights are a) uncovered and b) very, very hot.

Sometimes, I am such a rubbish mother. Not only am I not at home baking cakes, I have almost allowed my son to destroy a rather lovely artwork. Oh, and hurt himself into the bargain.

So we head into the next gallery: Milo (happily), Simon (shamefully) and me (slovenly). Spotting a kids’ activity centre, I slump onto the adjacent beanbags in a post-lunch, pre-coffee stupor. Milo grabs an abacus, throws it onto the floor and runs off. As Simon and I listen to the sound of our son thundering harmlessly around the room, I realise Milo’s stripy top reminds me of something. If he only had darker hair, he’d be the spit of Dennis the Menace.


Ratings. Babychanging facilities: Yes. Cafe: Yes, with children’s menu. Buggy-friendly? Yes. Cost: Free. Worth it? Yes. A decent number of activities for kids, including an Art Cart and dressing-up booths.

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