What?: Probably not the most obvious baby hangout in the world, but the o2 has saved us on many a whiney afternoon when we both just need to get out of the flat before one of us starts flinging yoghurt.
As shopping centres go this one is pretty miniature and I don’t generally do a great deal of actual shopping there, but it’s a nice walk from our flat and there’s a good, if rather odd, selection of shops to look round. Favourites include Tiger, which is a kind of small, weird Danish IKEA; one of the only three Habitat stores left in the UK – a terrible tragedy in itself; and overpriced train station staple Oliver Bonas – all of which offer tiny but lovely kids’ collections.
There’s also a big Sainsbury’s that sells kids’ clothes and has a large baby section; an Apostrophe with loads of high chairs; and copious child-friendly restaurants, with Yo! Sushi and Rossopomodoro both offering kids’ cooking workshops. I should probably also mention that there’s a Gymboree, although I can’t really comment on that because we haven’t been since the annual fee costs more than my old gym membership in Shoreditch, and I didn’t even have to deal with other people’s children there.
Where?: Nestled between Finchley Road Tube (Jubilee & Metropolitan) and Finchley Road & Frognal Overground. Annoyingly neither is buggy friendly, so if you’re going alone you’ll either have to carry it yourself (impossible unless you’re Fatima Whitbread) or hover pathetically at the bottom of the stairs until some lovely do-gooder takes pity on you.
Discovery: Two days before I went into labour I went into an insane nesting frenzy and decided I needed to refurnish our entire flat. I insisted my mum bring me here and then forced her to drag three cushions, a framed print and a large side table home to my flat a mile away because I was so pregnant that Bab was basically falling out of my fanny at this point.*
Best Bits: The Waterstones has a huge children’s department that the staff don’t seem to mind kids crawling around in and generally trashing. There’s a table in the middle for older ones to sit and read at, and the floor is littered with baskets full of toys that have suffered prolonged, aggressive displays of affection from hundreds of kids, rendering them completely unsaleable.
Worst Bits: It annoys me so much that Habitat has no lift, meaning the children’s section is inaccessible to people with buggies. There’s a small cupboard posing as a baby-changing facility. Have fun trying to squash you, your baby and its pram in there.
Would We Come Back? We come here so often I know some of the kids that hang out in Waterstones by name, including Bab’s seemingly parentless four-year-old stalker.
*That was a joke by the way. I was two weeks’ overdue, induced, in labour for 60 hours and Bab was ultimately wrenched out with forceps. At no point was she falling out of my fanny
Bab eats at Yo! Sushi at the o2 Centre