Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Formative experiences

Today I went into town with ex-housemate S and baby Tungsten*. Parents everywhere will laugh hollowly at me for finding this a fascinating experience, but I've never been shopping with a baby before. It's really *hard*. And they clearly built the pavements round here before they invented pushchairs. What did they do with babies in the Middle Ages? Left them wriggling in middens, probably.
But it had its advantages. We bought new trousers in White Stuff (the first shop we went into) at the speed of light. Okay, we bought the same trousers, but thankfully they came in two different colours, and I don't think anyone will notice. I went to the library and borrowed the first three books I saw, which is probably as good a way as any of selecting reading material. I pared my Neal's Yard purchases down to the bare minimum (one bottle of conditioner and one bottle of body lotion), which is good, because I am poor at the moment. And then we went to Modern Art Oxford for lunch, whose cafe is the spiritual home of every middle class parent in Oxford. Even those who hate modern art.

The cafe is in the basement. You can go down the stairs from street level, or you can get in a special stairlift type cage to take you up to the shop, from where a normal lift will take you down to the cafe. I opened the special cage door for the pushchair. 'I've never got in this before', said S. 'I'm just too embarrassed'. It moved us up, whirring gently, about three feet at maybe an inch a second, in full view of everyone in the shop. It *was* a bit excruciating, and two nuns sitting on a bench smiled wryly** at us as we walked across the room trying to act natural.

We ate, and Tungsten drank, and then it was time for them to go to the GP to get his kidneys weighed or something. I can't face that lift again, said S. Okay, I said, let's carry him up the stairs.

She took the back of the pushchair, and I had the front. Can I just hold the handles? I said. Yes, fine, she said, and we set off. By the time she was halfway up, the pushchair was approaching vertical, and Tungsten sort of rolled forward, curled up like a caterpillar with his head pointing downwards in a way which was clearly not ideal. No! Stop! I said, and we had a kind of mid-air mid-stair baby wrangling moment which fortunately he slept right through and we both found hilarious.

A severe looking middle aged woman was waiting for us at the top of the stairs. As we finally returned the pushchair to solid ground, she peered round the hood and said 'Oh, you *do* actually have a baby in there!' Just about, I replied. 'I thought you might be an installation,' she said.

Clearly, I'm a natural.


*not his official name, but that's what they really wanted to call him, so it's his name for the time being
**possibly not wryly, possibly open-heartedly and generously, they are nuns after all. But it looked wry to me.

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Blogger Kate said...

That made me laugh so much! I can just see you on the stairs. Next you should try shopping with a toddler - that will get your Neal's Yard Purchases down below bare minimum!!

7:27 am  

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