I don't know about you, but I had a busy and varied Saturday.
Barbican Weekender:Natural Circuits
The Barbican this weekend is full of balloons. And screens. And happy children. This special family-focused event is devoted to digital creativity, with a variety of hands-on join-in activities for all. Print out some 3D foliage. Fire a virtual spray can at an electronic wall. Dance in front of a pixellated screen which reacts to your footsteps. You can see why the kids were enjoying it. Hollie, Joelle and Lucy turned up from Queen Mary University dressed in retractable sculptures and performed under the stage name Whimsichord. They looked like graceful demons, cavorting robotically in the main foyer, except there was some form of malfunction and the self-generated soundtrack was never heard. All was very quiet in the tweeted poems room, but the screen outside displayed some of the brief gems already submitted to the project. Staff were waiting with some activity in almost every corner of the building, some busy, others it has to be said rather less so. The usual creative types who hang around the Barbican were present too, sat at leather sofas tapping their tablets and laptops. And parallel to all this was the queue for the Rain Room, the interactive wet weather installation in The Curve. A few hundred people were waiting for their turn in the virtual shower, but with only five allowed in at one time it was going to be a helluva wait. Most were sat on the floor chatting with friends, reading the paper, fiddling with their phone or watching a movie on their iPad. Seriously, don't bother with the Rain Room at weekends, try and visit early in the morning mid-week sometime between now and March. Or come and do all the other stuff - the Barbican's never dull.
John Lewis: London 2012 Shop
It's still open on the third floor at Stratford City, this long gallery stuffed with the last remnants of Games merchandise. You'd think John Lewis would have shoved their Christmas goods in here by now, but that's just outside, and still the public come. They're drawn of course by the view out of the observation window, looking out across the Olympic Park in shutdown mode. Not as much has yet disappeared as you might expect, although all the security tents have gone and a large swathe of tarmac awaits its redeveloped future. The shelves in the London 2012 shop are full, but the range of stock available can best be described as 'limited'. One rack is entirely full of tea cosies, some electric blue, others a mix of fruity shades. They're all £2, as are the tea towels on a shelf at the back. I like the UK map tea towels so much I've bought myself a second, although it seems the Stratford buying public disagree. Another rack is full of keyrings and pin badges, in an increasingly narrow range, while close by the Mandeville drinks bottles haven't sold. Someone at LOCOG HQ ordered far too many model taxis, the smallest of which are now going (boxed) for £1.85. The much mocked wallet-sized metal fish and chip forks are suddenly half price, if you've been waiting until now to buy a pair, as well as some fairly flimsily packed tins of Union Jack biscuits. Not everything's been reduced. A host of Team GB goodies are still at full whack, and the commemorative 50ps collectors album, and some of the more expensive luxury items. But if you're seeking an original if entirely inappropriate Christmas gift, maybe E20's late summer sell-off will provide a few stocking fillers.
While other London council displays fall by the wayside, Lewisham continues to fund the annual pyrotechnic extravaganza on Blackheath. A hundred thousand normally turn up, some lured by the fairground, others by the bar, but most by the opportunity to stand in open darkness to watch thousands of pounds go up in smoke. Volunteers go round with buckets to try to recoup some of the costs, but they're all too easy to miss, and few seem to give more than few coins anyway. Saturday night's skies were crisp and clear, ideal for watching the lights of planes descending across the area on their approach to Heathrow. The crowds came well wrapped, displaying the latest in fashionable woolly headgear. Families and youthful groups were much in evidence, as well as couples huddling up against one another for warmth. Officially the display starts at eight, but in truth it's always five past to allow for any stragglers to take up position. A series of bangs and flashes ensued, you know the score, plus a decent mix of blasts, cracks and whizzes. Everyone gawped, and several waved their cameras as if some blurry image or video could possibly capture the all-enveloping experience. Plenty of spectacle, plenty of variety, and continuing just long enough to make everyone feel like it had been well worth coming. Sixteen minutes, if you were counting, which is fractionally less than last year. And after the fiery climax came the rush for home, or the dash for the funfair, or a lot of hanging around attempting in vain to regroup in the dark. Firework displays may be far more common than they used to be, but there's still something magic about this collective spectacle on the heath. Long may London's most popular display continue.