“They’re hiking to the Tiger’s Nest today,” I pant as I catch up with NW, who has skipped (as much as a man in his late thirties can) ahead with NG & NC to the bottom of the Spinnaker Tower in Portsmouth. “It’s an ancient monastery in Bhutan. It’s going to take them six hours to get there.”
He doesn’t have to ask who and he’s polite enough not to mention how long we queued for the car park.
“Why do tigers have nests?” asks NG, who has finished scrutinising the clouds on the promotional material for faces (she’s going through a phase) and is impatient to get in.
“They don’t. It’s the name of a really high up place that’s very quiet. Some people think it’s called ‘Tiger’s Nest’ because the wife of an emperor turned herself into a tiger and went there with an important holy man.”
NG is a bit quiet. In the silence, NC growls. In the last day or so, he has developed a noise that sounds as though he smokes 80 Woodbines a day. He’s teething but that’s no excuse, in my book. “Why did the man have holes?”
NW looks at me. “He didn’t,” he sighs, with monk-like patience, and we go in.
After posing in front of a green screen for a photograph where a nice lady admires NC’s rabid dribbling, we get into the lift with a man who delivers a speech about getting to the third floor of the Spinnaker Tower in exactly the same amount of time as it takes to get to the third floor of the Spinnaker Tower. I am wondering how many trips it took him to perfect this when NG shoots ahead of me through the open doors and we find ourselves looking across a semi-crowded room with glass walls, overlooking Portsmouth Harbour.
“Wow,” I say predictably. There is a glass floor and we all take our shoes off. Luckily, unlike the Duchess of Cambridge, there are no paps to notice my toenails are curly and unpainted, though NW does give me his ‘retching face’ when he sees my feet, so that helps.
The views are astonishing: we can see all the way to the Isle of Wight and, on the left, towards Chichester. On the right, the Warrior lies like a regal slug alongside the rail track.
“That boat used to carry kings and queens,” I say to NG, who is pressing her nose against the glass.
NC gives a low roar and headbutts my husband, who has slinged him tightly. “Shall we go higher?” he asks.
We brave the windy staircase up to the next floor, where there’s a nice cafe, and then the very top. There, NG insists on squashing a 1p in a machine with a massive wheel, so it has a picture of the Spinnaker Tower on it. It’s a bit of a rip off for what effectively is manual labour followed by devalued coinage, but she loves it so much she tries to press it into her eye socket for safe keeping, so it’s worth every penny of the 101 it costs.
NC is really howling. “Come here,” NG says protectively, hugging her father’s legs. He crouches down like a sheltering priest and she hugs her brother in a way that stops me trying to work out where the massive Tesco is below and watch my cubs protectively. “We can build a nest, little tiger,” she says to NC. He looks up at her and stops meowling. “And you can hold my penny for a little bit, if you like.”
NC’s eyes are as bloodshot as it is possible to be when you’re seven months old but he accepts the choking hazard gladly.
With a roar, NW and I pounce at the same time: “Noooooo …”
We were guests of the Emirates Spinnaker Tower, which kindly provided us with a free pass in return for an honest review.
KEY TO CHARACTERS
Characters are abbreviated as follows:
NW – not William (husband and father)
NG – not George (daughter, sister and two and three quarter year old)
NC – not Charlotte (son, brother and seven month old)
NL – not Lupo (a Labrador)