I took my grandsons out for the day yesterday. We went to Maryport Aquarium, my plan being to spend the morning looking at the fishy displays then lunch before going on to an indoor play park. We had the aquarium to ourselves and the displays were excellent although I needed to lift the youngest (age 2) to see inside every tank situated at my eyeline but the oldest (age 4) became frightened by the sound of waves splashing in the big-sea pool so we whizzed round the whole place in less than five minutes.
I thought I would pacify him in the café. It’s a good café, not only serving delicious homemade cakes but with an excellent choice of kids meals not based on chips (my boys don’t like chips) and a perfect view of the harbour to keep their interest. I ordered coffee, they wanted ice cream.
Outside it was trying to snow, two swans swam around the harbour and men were working on the deck of a fishing trawler docked on the opposite quay. I thought great, lots of interesting things for the boys to watch and I’ll have ten minutes respite to drink my coffee. But nothing is simple with toddlers! They only like vanilla ice cream. The waitress tried to tempt them with ‘Rocky Horror’, ‘Death by Chocolate’, ‘Sweet Strawberry Dreams’ or ‘Paradise Road’. No, it had to be vanilla! The waitress said they had vanilla ice cream in the gift shop but not in the café so I could go to the gift shop for their ice creams. I looked longingly at my coffee and the two boys sitting at the table waiting. I looked at the long path through the gift shop to the ice cream freezer sitting beside the entrance. The gift-shop was virtually as big as the aquarium except the floor was loaded with baskets containing the sort of bright coloured toys kids of two and four years old think of as treasure. I suggested it would be better if the waitress could get the ice creams. Eventually she obliged.
When we finished in the café the boys wanted to go to the outside play area being it was themed around a pirate ship. It was bitterly cold and trying to snow but they thought it was wonderful having the whole playground to themselves. If only to warm up we raced through the aquarium a second time, with more success. Obviously the ice cream sustained Oscar’s fear of waves. The rays were still fast asleep, the sharks looked hungry and we followed an escapee through the sunken ship. I’m not sure what the crab made of the boys but they loved copying its unique way of walking.
I survived the battle through the gift-shop. We didn’t purchase the fluffy dinosaur or plastic helicopter with fixed blades (daddy can’t fix it). There were no tears either but I wish the people who came up with these money-spinning layouts gave the option to exit without running the gauntlet of toys and sweets placed at toddler level, particularly when the displays we paid to see weren’t.