Sitting in the sunshine, shaded by an arching dark blue parasol, the sky azure blue, dusted with the occasional smudge of bright white cloud, I mused over what would make my perfect day. A lie in of course, I am a parent after all, followed by a trip into London to see a proper grown up exhibition, a leisurely lunch and a spot of shopping. As I looked around the garden table, littered with the debris of our family lunch, half chewed pitta bread and smears of hummus liberally coating the high chairs, cocktail sausages, chunks of cheddar, ripped hunks of baguette and sticky juice spills, I sighed. This day of leisure was surely just a fantasy.
The next day twin one is sick, he has been awake through the night screaming in pain, and we are all weary and careworn. What to do with a family housebound by the illness of one of its tiniest members? Boy two is spirited away to his grandparents and, as we ponder how to entertain our oldest, I remember my pie in the sky plans for a perfect day out. I shall ask him along. He jumps at the chance and I am to spend the day with my ideal man (no offence to other half, but his hatred of shopping means he falls just short of perfection).
We escape the screaming chaos of lunchtime with the twins, leaving my husband in his pyjamas and in charge. We almost skipped through the park to our nearest Tube station. His little hand is entwined in mine and he beams at the treat of having his beloved mummy all to himself. We chat about this and that, school, friends, our plans for the day. The journey passes in a blur of counting stations and celebrating our good fortune to have escaped alone together.
It is such bliss to only have to cope with one, civilised and independent six-year-old, as opposed to a brood of unruly boys, half of whom cannot walk, eat by themselves or speak in anything other than ear-splitting screams.
The exhibition we'd planned to see, Grace Kelly: Style Icon was sold out, but such was our joy at spending time together, this failed to dampen our spirits. We rush through the baroque halls of the V&A, gasping in awe at the glistening treasures, the sparkling jewellery, the carved icons, the sheer opulence and excess of our ancestors. We found a silver wine bowl that my son could have swum in and a jewel encrusted tiara made from gems as big and colourful as boiled sweets. We marvel at glittering snuff boxes, the intricacy of the carving on a religious scroll and the rich, red glow of the sun shining through ancient stained glass.
He describes the way the diamonds dripping from some long dead aristocrat's necklace throw off light like a crowd on a dark night taking photos, the glints from the precious stones like their myriad flashes against a velvet black background. I am impressed by his eloquence and imagination.
We dash through 20th Century design, the highlights being a chair made from a zebra, it's stiff, black mane running up the backrest and bowl with the billboards of Piccadilly Circus painted inside it. My boy is so enthusiastic, so interested, so stimulating, such fun. Such a glowing beam to light up the dusty moats floating lazily in the ornate halls of the museum.
Lunch is a picnic al fresco beside a gently spurting fountain. We watch a toddler paddle in the pool beneath its sputtering flow. The sun glints on the puddles from a recent downpour. As we share our drinks my boy screws up his nose as the sparkling water fizzes and burns on his tongue. Pigeons flap and beg for our crumbs and tourists rest and consult their maps, searching for the next stop on their tour of our city.
After lunch it's time to shop. My boy is good at shopping, even better than me, which is impressive as I am a black belt in the art of frittering away money. We pick toys for everyone, including me. He persuades me to buy a paperweight in the shape of a huge diamond, we are both transfixed by the icy fire reflected off its contoured edges.
Then it's off on a red double decker bus, sweeping its way to Knightsbridge. I have told him of a shop that is almost as big as the museum, but stuffed with exotic treats to buy, and the biggest toy department he has ever seen. As we climb off outside Harrods, he gasps and says "It looks more like a palace than a shop". Well it's certainly a temple to consumerism and we push open the plate glass doors in happy anticipation.
First stop is the food hall to select glossy dark chocolates that nestle in a crinkling nest of silver paper in their stiff golden box, a present to appease poor daddy who has missed out on our marvellous expedition. Then on to the sweets, my boy twirls around amidst aisles coloured with jars full to the brim with a rainbow of jelly beans and displays bristling with lollipops in an array of flavours that would make Willy Wonka's mouth water. It's so hard to choose but in the end we come away with some sweet delights wrapped in that distinctive green and gold plastic bag.
We swish up in the lift to the fourth floor toy department and my boy can hardly contain himself, tiny helicopters and giant balloons whizz past us as demonstrators tempt him with their wares. He runs from Lego to Ben 10, via a teddy ten times the size of him and a giant stuffed gorilla. In an attempt to keep some check on my finances I gently steer him to the buckets overflowing with pocket money toys, bouncy balls filled with glimmering glitter, spy glasses that allow you to see what's behind you, wriggly toys furry with soft plastic fronds, bubble machines and fake poo.
Eventually we choose a few trinkets that the boys will lose in less time than it takes the cashier to bag them up and head home. The tube is packed, but as soon as two seats are free my boy curls up under my arm and falls asleep, exhausted by our adventure. I watch his eyelids flicker and wonder if he is dreaming of museums filled with jewel bright sweets, toy shop shelves groaning under snuffboxes, a fantastical mix of everything we have seen today.
As I savour the warmth and weight of my sleeping son, I realise that I was right, it really was the most perfect day.