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Saturdays out continued

Natasha made a fantastic stir-fry today. Somehow, she disregarded my preference for having meat at dinner… After foolishly expressing my dissatisfaction, I had to work overtime to praise leftover spaghetti with ground beef to avoid going altogether hungry…

For the second Saturday in a row, we were greeted by pleasant weather. Off we went in our usual pursuit of having fun in a foreign land.

Along the way, a curious incident happened. A subway agent put me in my place as a rude American.

Tube and train stations in London do not have turnstiles as in New York, but rather saloon-door-like ticket gates. Since travel costs different amount depending on your start and end zone, you have to use your ticket both when entering your origin station and when leaving your final station.

We are leaving the London Bridge rail station, and only Becky’s ticket allows her to go through the gate. Neither Kimmy, nor Natasha, nor me are able to follow – the gate doors do not open. There is always a service gate on the side, with an agent stationed by it. The guy is shooting breeze with some acquaintance. I gather our three offending tickets, head over and say “Hey, listen, how come we can’t get out?” He turns to me with a disdainful look and responds, “It’s not Hey, it’s Excuse me!“. Flabbergasted, I manage a weak “Excuse me”. He opens the gate, we proceed through it and continue on our way.

I have thought of a dozen witty repartees since then, but the bottom line is, what sounds to me like a simple conversational greeting, can be taken as thoughtlessly rude by the local populace. An interesting lesson learned, I guess.

Our first stop for the day was Kensington Gardens, specifically, the Princess Diana Memorial Playground that we did not get to visit last week. A place with marine overtones, the playground is dominated by the tall ship that allows more adventurous kids to climb up its masts. Anybody who knows Becky can easily guess that the girl had tons of fun. With an attraction like that, a jungle gym looks positively boring. Kimmy also did some ship exploring, but she mostly spent time in a wooden hut, making imaginary dinners and greeting both imaginary and real guests, Natasha and I alternately starring in the latter role.

They both managed to quickly acquire friends, Becky even a Russian-speaking one. A missed opportunity – we did not make an effort to talk up the girl’s parents…

Around 2pm, the skies started to get overcast and the low-hanging sun barely provided any warmth, so we walked across the park, by Prince Albert Memorial and Royal Albert Hall to the Science Museum.

Now, that one is fun! We only spent two and a half hours or so there and barely saw a quarter of it, but it surely has a huge variety of activities and exhibitions that appeal to all ages. We actually planned on going to see an IMAX movie in the museum theater, but the showings were not the ones that we would go for. Nor did we go for computer game arcades or the 3D Simulator. We will definitely come back to take advantage of those some other time.

Where we did spend most of our time is at the Launch Pad and the Who Am I gallery.

The Launch Pad is a kids-oriented hands-on gallery, with many different activities that either draw on scientific phenomena or make use of technology. For instance, you can build an arched bridge out of wooden blocks by placing them on removable foundation; when the blocks are all in place, the foundation can be pulled out from under the bridge, which remains perfectly standing and can be walked on. This result amazes kids and adults alike… Or station yourself at the two huge radar dishes, positioned at the opposite sides of the gallery. There are small metallic tubes in front of each dish; gently speaking into one makes you be heard by people who stand by the other dish, and only them… Or go immerse yourself in several dozen of other fun things to do…

The Who Am I gallery is devoted to the subjects of what makes each person unique and what human psyche is made of. There are several cool activities either in the form of arcade games that require unusual application of brain power or interactive presentations of some interesting topic. For instance, you can race a single sperm against its brethren, to see whether you can “make a baby”. Both Natasha and Becky won their races; I passed for fear of losing and denting my reputation… Or you can try racing a car around the track with the steering wheel working in reverse… Or you can choose a gift for either a boy or a girl, and see whether the kid likes your choice. Curiously, a virtual boy named Joseph did not reject a fashion doll in a pink dress… Becky spent a long time trying to make a gender-profiling machine work – it is supposed to take a picture of your face and then digitally morph it into various degrees of feminine and masculine. The picture was not coming out well, and morphing produced zombies who defied any gender classification…

One other gallery that we stopped by, In Future, had a fun computerized game around the idea of a smart toilet constantly analyzing your deposits and advising you and your doctor of your health…

Becky usurped my line and declared the day a success on our way back home.