Published: 1st March 2017
Georgia Byng is a writer, illustrator, actress, film producer, and most famously, author of the Molly Moon series of books, about a girl who learns about hypnotism. She lives in London with her family.
Recently, the film I was very involved with, Molly Moon and The Incredible Book of Hypnotism, came out. It was based on my book of the same name, about a child hypnotist. I’m now thinking up ideas for a TV series about Molly Moon.
I’ve written a book called ‘The Girl With no Nose’. I got the idea from an exhibit in The Hunterian Museum in London. The exhibit was a pair of glasses with a nose attached. They had belonged to a Victorian girl who’d had no nose. I based my story on her. The main thing I am working on at the moment though, is a YA (young adult) trilogy. My aim is to get the first book written by the Easter holidays.
When I was young I lived in the country, and London was an incredibly exciting place to think about, let alone visit. My absolute favourite thing to do was to go to the theatre.
My mum would also take us to Harrods. They had teddy bear choc ices at Harrods then. And a pet department with puppies in it. We’d visit the pet department and ooh and aah over the puppies and then beg our mum to let us take one home. Beg and beg. Amazingly, she gave in two times. One year we got a Labrador and another year a King Charles Spaniel puppy. I can remember driving back to the country with them in the car feeling like we’d saved them.
There are a few places.
I love Stonehenge. It’s a magical place. Very humbling, because it’s so old – something our ancestors put up five thousand years ago. It’s awe inspiring, impressive, beautiful. Visit it puts life into perspective. And children love it too because of its simplicity and the history of it. Children usually like to think about prehistoric history.
I would also recommend Brighton, where I go a lot. It is great fun for children, with the pier with its funfair, its beach where you can have your own barbecue and where you can people watch, with its seafood stalls and fish and chips and its mazes of shops in the Laines. It has theatre, music, cinema, but one of my favourite places to go in Brighton is The Coral Greyhound Track. My kids and I just love going there to watch the dogs run.
I also have to mention Treerunners in Andover, near my mum’s. It is completely brilliant. The kids go high up into the trees and with harnesses on that keep them safe, they climb through the trees, along wires, up ladders that are so high up that it gives you vertigo watching your children all up there. But forget the nerves, kids love tree running. It is, without doubt, one of the best days out for kids.
I love most of all to have lunch at my mum’s, with family and friends. My mother is a very warm person. She loves to look after everyone and we all help get lunch together. And it’s good to be out of London and in the countryside.
I like going with my boys down the the Thames shores, when the tide is low. You get up very early and drive to the city. You walk down the stairs onto the mud of the banks of the river and you mudlark. Mudlarking is like beachcombing, except you are in wellies on a sludgy bank of the Thames instead of in bare feet on a sandy beach. There are lots of things to find. Loads of bones. Animal bones, probably from the meat market in Victorian times, oyster shells, old dolls, wheels of prams, Victorian medicine bottles if you’re lucky, and old clay pipes.. It is great!
After, you can go to the Museum of London, where they have a Fire of London exhibition and lots of brilliant models of London as well as old things from London that show you what it has been like through the ages.
The Hunterian, the surgeons museum is good. They have revolting exhibits – for instance, bits of the body, brains and lungs and livers, in formaldehyde. They have lots of surgeons equipment and show the history of medicine and disease and surgery with their exhibits. There are skeletons galore. They have the skeleton of one of the tallest men who ever lived in London and beside that, the skeleton of one of the smallest. This place has the great quality of being really interesting as well as fun. But go here quick as it shuts before Easter for a refurbishment that is going to take three years.
I love going to Portobello Market and choosing food there with my children. There’s a great cheese stall, a good mushroom and truffle stall, as well as countless others with delicious food. I like dropping into Honest Jon’s the record shop and the Oxfam bookshop and then weaving up to the outdoor, covered market where there are clothes stalls and antiques.
I really like going to the theatre with my kids. Anything from musicals to Shakespeare, from serious plays to pantomime. I am a theatre addict and they like it too.
Back to Portobello Road. The Electric Cinema is good. They have beds at the front. It is the comfiest cinema in the world.
Otherwise I love The Curzon cinema in Soho. The Curzon is about to be ripped down because the council is selling the land off to developers to build expensive apartments. It is very sad and a great pity as this is the cinema of Soho and Soho is Britain’s film-making hub – in basements there, films are being edited, in offices there, films are being produced. It is a great pity if London loses this lovely cinema.
I use all of these. In a hurry I use the tube, but I prefer buses as I don’t really like being underground, and I like watching the world. In fact I sometimes write on buses. On the top deck. Taxis great as you can shoot fast up the bus lane in them and avoid the jams.
If you are ever stuck with small kids in London and need something to do with them, go to Poundland. Give them a basket and let them shop. It’s really funny seeing what they pick out – the things they think they need, from glue to pegs to miniature sewing kits. They stuff their baskets, but the truth is they don’t really want any of it, so at the checkout tell them they can have two things because you haven’t got any money. If you feel guilty about filling a basket and someone having to put it back on the shelves, put a bit of it back as you go round, (the shopping kid doesn’t notice the stuff being put back as they are caught up in the ecstasy of the shop) and then, to thank Pound Land, buy five rolls of sellotape or something else that you know you need to stock up on. I’ve had some very entertaining trips to Poundland with four year olds!