Adventures with Alfie Day 5

Friday 5th October 2012

As I drive past the local Infants School I always look up at the school motto above the door. It says, ‘Nid Byd, Byd Heb Gwybodaeth’, which literally means a world with no knowledge is no world. One day this school will be Alfie’s school. One thing I must try to do in my Friday Adventures is do my bit to prepare him for the time when he leaves the safety of family and enters the world of education. With this in mind and reflecting that we spent last week in Barry, Alfie and I decided this week we would up our game and head for a place of great learning…Yr Amgueddfa Genedlaethol Cymru…The National Museum of Wales.

Alfie stayed overnight so we had another nice early start. The lady of the house, bless her was up early dressing Alfie and preparing him for the day. I gave him his breakfast of Weetabix and mashed banana and as my car is off the road, the lovely lady had to walk to work, so Alfie and I had an extended playing time before his morning nap. We had a lovely time. It appears Alfie has two favourite toys in his toy box; a police car that makes a great siren noise and an old plastic Quality Street jar.

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The sweets have long left the jar and are resting comfortably on my waistline and the hips of the lady of the house, but the jar retains a strange fascination for Alfie. We also had fun with an old Fisher Price toy we picked up in a car boot sale at Bessemer Road in recent weeks.

It’s a kind of pull along telephone and when you pull it its eyes pop up and down. I think it appeared in a Toy Story Film. Alfie really got the hang of pulling the string to make the eyes go…he had a fit of the giggles. While we were playing I was fascinated at Alfie’s ability to blow snot bubbles from his nose with effortless ease, almost without trying! He is teething and has the sniffles, that’s a common enough occurrence but snot bubbles is something else!

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Alfie had a little sleep then and I wondered if he could blow snot bubbles in his sleep. It might be possible. After his nap, we prepared for the day. A free day thanks to the Welsh Assembly Government who give free travel to the old and infirm; thankfully I am one of the former and they have also abolished entry charges to museums. Cool! My car has broken down so it meant the bus or the train. I went for the train thinking I had just missed a bus, but when I reached Cardiff Road, there was a huge queue of traffic, so I guessed the bus may be late, so I went to the bus stop and, great timing, the bus arrived almost immediately. I catch the good old number 95 into town. I was a bit panicky, as it will only take one pushchair unfolded, so if there is already one on board you have to remove your little darling and fold the blessed thing up, then you have no chance of reading The Metro. I held my breath, but thankfully all the young Barry mums were probably having a lie in or still watching Jeremy Kyle on ITV +1. The bus bounced its way into Cardiff and we got off at The Central Bus Station. As usual every human being within a five-seat radius of Alfie was captivated by his smile and he had the whole bus almost paying him compliments. Happy days!

It’s a fair walk from the bus station to the museum, so I gave Alfie the opportunity to have a look at some of Cardiff’s old arcades on the way. I am sure he loved them; we walked up the Wyndham Arcade down the Royal Arcade, up the Morgan Arcade, then across by the Hayes Island Snack Bar. I thought the pushchair had developed a fault, as it started pulling to the left as I went past, but I kept thinking of bacon rolls and seagulls and forced the pushchair on. As we passed by the fault seemed top correct itself…strange that.

As we went through the subway in front of The City Hall we stopped to hear a busking accordion player. Alfie loved the music and was fascinated by the way the man’s fingers skipped over the notes.

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He looked quite poor and a few of the notes near the top end were missing or all buckled. I was looking round for a seat. I love to hear music being played in the street; those Peruvian singers are my favourite. The guy smiled and started to chat. He asked Alfie’s age, Alfie was smiling away in time to the music. Turns out this Eastern European accordionist had four boys of his own; the youngest just about Alfie’s age. I gave Alfie a pound to drop in his case, but he tried to eat it, so I had to do it myself. You meet some nice people. He smiled and thought about his boys back in Eastern Europe and his dream of opening up a car wash in Tesco Car Park…he was a pound nearer to achieving that particular dream anyway. We strolled on. I was thinking that I hope that as Alfie grows up he has a good heart and cares for those less fortunate than he is. Before we entered the museum, I put Alfie’s mask on him. As a responsible and caring adult I knew that some of the statues in the museum had a habit of showing their bits and I consider Alfie too young for such things. Unless care is taken, he will grow up like his mum and grandmother.

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I remembered the time in Florence, that great city of culture, when the lady of the house came face to face with Michelangelo’s statue of David and giggled uncontrollably. Or the time the great lady and Alfie’s mum watched the ballet in the Wales Millennium Centre and were threatened with expulsion because of the sniggers every time the male ballet dancers flounced on to the stage. He wasn’t terribly keen on the mask, but I knew it was for the best!

Alfie and I did the natural world section first and boy did we have a good time. Buffalo, dinosaurs and all manner of strange beasts were on display. Alfie was fascinated! He particularly liked the moths and butterflies, unlike his aunt Bes who screams loudly at anything that has more than two legs and can climb up walls.

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From here we moved on to a display of Welsh ceramics and both dozed off, whilst walking around! Not all that interesting but at least no statues….

We decided to take the lift up to the next floor and quite unexpectedly the lift took us up to a café, that’s all that seemed to be on that floor. Still it was nearly dinnertime. I looked at Alfie, Alfie looked at me and we both nodded and agreed to stop for luncheon.

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It was a cool place with plenty of high chairs and a parents and baby changing room. There was also a kids playing area so I had all I needed. I set about feeding Alfie. I had prepared cheese sandwiches on white bread with extra mature cheddar followed by a fruit pot. He really enjoyed his lunch and consumed every bit. While he was eating, I looked at the menu and my eyes came across…warm salad with hot Penclawdd cockles, bacon and mangetouts. I gave into the temptation and ordered it with a pot of fair-trade tea.

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Heaven! They gave me a Welsh love spoon with the number 5 on it for my table to guide the waiter. Alfie loved it! He played drums on his high chair and amused all who were sitting around him. When my meal came they must have run out of mangetouts as they just gave me some pea cases instead. When I was a kid I used to love shelling peas for my mum, but eat the empty pea cases never! I didn’t feel like arguing so I just ate it. Words cannot describe how good it was. Alfie kept eyeing up my cockles, but much as I love him…there was not a chance of me sharing them.

After food we went to the play area, where I let Alfie draw a picture. He seemed to think that the crayons were edible and we had this massive fight to keep each one from his mouth.

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The finished picture was displayed in a little display area. I considered the implications; here I was, an ordinary boy from a council estate in Cardiff, with a grandchild with a piece of artwork on display in the National Museum of Wales. I was breathless with excitement. I cannot wait for the next museum catalogue…

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On the way to the exit, we walked through various galleries and the event I had been dreading happened. Luckily I was able to pull Alfie’s mask down in the nick of time.

Oh the shame of it, how could they stand there on their plinths with everything on show!! Alfie kept trying to pull the mask up but I knew what was best and kept pulling it down. I changed gear on the pushchair and beat a hasty retreat and reached the front door without any further embarrassment.

We walked back to town through the Gorsedd Gardens. These are right in front of the National Museum; these small gardens are an attractive place to walk. There are many well looked after flowerbeds, which are attractive throughout most of the year. There is a stone ‘druidic’ circle dating from 1899 when the National Eisteddfod of Wales was held in the city. From here we walked across to the Earl of Windsor Garden. This is a quirky little garden just opposite the castle. It contains a statue of the Earl of Windsor… not really sure who he was! I took Alfie there because I could see a conker tree. We only found a few despite there being hundreds of empty shells. I explained the rules of conkers to Alfie, who was only desperate to eat them. He didn’t seem to appreciate anything about conkers or strings or what was a sixer or a tenner or a twelvesey. I saved the explanations of how some people claim to make a conker a champion by baking in the oven or soaking it in vinegar for another day. It’s a foul practice only undertaken by people who don’t appreciate the finer points of the sport. Alfie was getting tired!

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We made our way back to the bus station to catch the number 95 back home. Luckily I was again the only pushchair on the bus, which was very crowded. This very large lady perched herself on the seat next to mine. She was lovely with my little man and Alfie smiled at her all the way home, now older and wiser as a result of his day in the museum, learning about the natural world, how rude some statues are, the Gorsedd Circle and above all else how to play conkers!

We arrived home tired but happy and as Alfie went home I hope he looked up at the Infants school and smiled when he read ‘Nid Byd, Byd heb Gwybodaeth.’

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