An epiphany at epiphany

On the eve of Epiphany eve (i.e. Friday night, for those without a grasp of the liturgical calendar), I had something of an epiphany of my own. Surprisingly, this sudden realisation related to London Transport – something which I would usually find it difficult to be surprised by. [Except when it involves travelling to West London. Last week I had a fail of epic proportions in terms of navigating my way from Holborn to Goldhawk Road. That darned, no longer circular, Circle Line!]

My epiphany was this: when you’re travelling with a pushchair, London Transport ceases to become a marvel and instead becomes a very public equivalent of a challenge in the Crystal Maze.

Every so often, I get to look after a child affectionately known as ‘squidgy baby’. I consider it a joy to have some quality time with a small person; his mother considers it a joy that she gets some child-free time; squidgy baby gets an adult’s undivided attention. It’s a win-win-win situation. I’m no stranger to child-care, I don’t balk at changing nappies, and I’m fairly nippy with a pushchair, but – as I realised on Friday afternoon – I had never taken a pushchair on any form of public transport, let alone London’s.

The sum total of my solo pushchair-TfL adventures was a single bus journey, but it was enough for me to decide that the parents of London should be awarded for their persistence in dealing with what can be a total nightmare.

Do bus drivers bother using their clever hydraulic systems to lower the floor of the bus to meet the pavement so you can get on? No. Do they do it to help you get off the bus? No. Do they stop neatly against the curb so that there isn’t a chasm you need to cross? No.

Are tube stations well suited to things with wheels? By and large no – unless you’re lucky enough to live on the Jubilee Line Extension (and ‘lucky’ in such locations has a limited definition). Getting a pushchair down the myriad steps at most stations is impossible single-handed and we all know just how caring London commuters can be. [Actually, that’s a terrible generalisation. I had help from a fellow passenger when getting off the bus and squidgy baby’s mum says she often gets assistance, but still…]

Oh, and do children who have recently discovered their mobility appreciate being strapped into a stationary pushchair for long periods of time, in a metal box with a load of strangers? No. There’s only so long that playing peep-bo with a hat will work, and, once they’ve discovered the wheelchair accessible bell, they are definitely not happy with a continued insistence that they may not press it.

My epiphany wasn’t so much the realisation of just how difficult this all is, but more that I’d never thought about it in the context of my general life aim to bring up my children in the capital. Yes, I realise that I currently have no children, but we all think about such things, don’t we?

On the plus side, I also discovered that the V&A Museum of Childhood (which I hadn’t been to since I was 12 and it was still the Bethnal Green Museum of Childhood) is brilliant when you have both a pushchair and an incredibly mobile one-year old. (Top recommendation is the indoor sand pit on the top floor, ideal for a dreary wet Friday afternoon. But don’t leave your pushchair in the pushchair park – squidgy baby’s was nicked from there a little while ago.)

Day out with the Squidgy Baby
Not only did the squidgy baby keep smiling, he was asleep by the time his mum returned. 
Yes, I am available for hire…

So, what are the impacts of this epiphany?

1) I will not immediately produce children that I will have to transport around the Big Smoke. (I wasn’t planning on doing so any time soon, I’m still lacking one of the key components in making that a reality.)
2) I will endeavour to pay more attention to those with pushchairs and lend a hand a bit more often.
3) I will pay more attention when the parents of children I am absconding with explain the workings of their pushchair. Not being able to release the breaks in time for your bus stop is just a tad embarrassing…

Finally, it’s worth recognising that many of these issues apply to wheelchair users too – and cannot be resolved as easily as simply carrying one end of a light(ish) pushchair. Take a look at a tube map and note how many stations are listed as wheelchair accessible – it’s pitifully few, especially in zone 1. Bus drivers aren’t always as good at using their ramps and hydraulics as they ought to be either. Most of the time we take London’s amazing transport system totally for granted. Let’s remember that it’s not amazing for everyone.

Friday Fun for the season (and just for fun)

I tend to try and avoid Halloween – partly for religious reasons and (largely) partly owing to my mask phobia. Last year, I was sequestered within a French monastery on October 31st, this year I was in a chilly tipi pretending it was Christmas. However, I do like pumpkins and pumpkin flavoured things [incidentally, anyone know if it would be possible to get a Pumpkin Spice Latte without the coffee??] and I also like geeky games. Thus, this is something of a brilliant creation:

Tetris in a pumpkin. Delightful. (Obviously you will now have the Tetris theme in your head for the rest of the day. Apologies.)

Also topical, given the release last week of the latest Bond film, is this gem. It needs no further introduction, other than to explain that it’s Alan Partidge’s narration of the opening of The Spy Who Loved Me, over the top of the opening scenes of the movie. Simple, yet highly effective.

I wouldn’t say that The Spy Who Loved Me is my favourite Bond outing, but it does contain my favourite Bond theme – and my go-to karaoke opener. I love to singNobody Does it Better almost as much as I love the London Underground – as I have demonstrated time and again. Today’s piece of TfL geekery comes courtesy of my sister and alerts us all to the fact that the tube will be 150 years old on January 10th. Get that date in the diary, I feel it calls for some kind of themed celebration…

150 great things about the Underground was always going to be a fun site to peruse, but Mim draw particular attention to #48 – the ‘houses’ in Leinster Gardens. The wonderful architects of the Metropolitan Line decided that London couldn’t possibly cope with unattractive gaps in its streets simply to allow the new trains to let off steam, so they came up with a genius plan: fake houses.

The front…

…the back.

Finally, something that is just simply fun. Twin babies dancing excitedly to their Dad playing the guitar – cuteness personified. A friend of mine recently became the father of twins and his Instagram feed is a joy to those of us who loving nothing more than cute photos of tiny children and the video below is in a similar vein. Don’t bother watching it if babies don’t do it for you, but if they do, I guarantee this will make you smile:

Stringed Friday Fun

It’s Friday, let’s stop messing around and do this.

Firstly, they had me at ‘harp camp’…
Last week someone posted the video below on Facebook. As my eyes scanned down the newsfeed, they alighted upon the opening words of this video’s summary: “While I was at a harp camp this summer…” Who isn’t going to want to watch a video that’s prefaced with that? (Especially if it brings back American Pie memories.) Anyway, it’s an arrangement of Owl City’s Fireflies for 5 harps and some bongoes. If that isn’t going to brighten up your morning, you obviously don’t appreciate stringed instruments enough.

If you really want to wreck your working day, open that up in YouTube and take a glance at the videos down the side. Yup, there’s a whole world of pop songs re-interpreted on the harp. Who’d have thought it? (I’m particularly bemused by the Californian identical twins who appear to take their harps to a lot of exotic locations. Clearly harps aren’t as unwieldy as I thought.)

If harps really don’t do it for you, what about some cute babies? (Don’t worry, this isn’t hormonal broodiness, I just genuinely thought this was rather comically cute.)

You’ve got to love parents who are willing to let the world laugh at their children…

Finally, just in case you didn’t have a fun-filled Tuesday 14th earlier this week (and you’re female/interested in men), here’s a way of finding your perfect prince:
More specifically, which Disney Prince is right for you? (I just know you’ve been wondering.)

I wasn’t disappointed by my result – Prince Eric (top left), of Little Mermaid fame. Apt for several reasons, firstly because who doesn’t secretly want to be a mermaid? Surely I wasn’t the only child who swirled their hair around in the bath while singing Part of Your World? Also, the quiz tells me that Eric is: “A dog lover, dancer, and expert sailor, he’s your Renaissance man.” Well, isn’t that just darn perfect! 
What, wait, what do you mean he’s a cartoon? Oh well, I guess I’ll have to go back to the drawing board then… 

Some alcoholic, childish Friday Fun

First up is something that isn’t fun of itself, but that in the right hands and filled with the right liquid could be a huge amount of fun – I love handbags and I love wine, so these would be simply awesome:

That is the ‘Baggy Winecoat’ – a bag in which you can tote a box of wine. I’m assuming everyone’s been in a situation where they’ve thought to themselves “gosh, life would be so much easier if I had a bag for my wine box”, I know I have. It comes in a variety of colours, but sadly you have to provide the win yourself. Actually, over the summer I was thinking that in my future life as a vicar, a hipflask might be an important accessory – you know, just for those emergency, alcohol involving pastoral situations? But perhaps the wine bag would be easier to get away with? Something to ponder…

Try-hard segue time: you know who liked lots of wine and probably would have invested in their own Baggy Winecoat? Ally McBeal. Ages ago I found something which I added to my Friday Fun file, but hadn’t so far found a suitable outlet for – now, given what will be book-ending this feature, I feel it’s finally appropriate. I appreciate that not everyone will remember the great late 1990s TV series as fondly as I do, but the fact that someone had captured her facial expressions so perfectly made me chuckle a lot:

More Ally McBeal faces here. You know what else Ally McBeal liked, besides wine and making weird faces? Dancing babies. You know what I spent a not inconsiderate amount of time watching last night? Videos of dancing children (they’re pre-schoolers, so not strictly babies, but it’s still cute as). 
Who isn’t going to have their morning brightened by watching super cute twins dancing (and doing a bit of singing) in front of their TV? A hard-hearted mean person, that’s who! 

Keep your eyes on the boy on the right – he’s a right little mover and is definitely the one with rhythm. If you’re really in need of cheeriness, I highly recommend also watching Who Let The Dogs Out and Kung Fu Fighting – super cute! Watching these has also reminded me that I’ve got a copy of Just Dance for the Wii knocking around that I’ve never played with, so if anyone fancies emulating the twins, let me know…

Also, just to warn devoted readers that blogging may be light/non-existent for the next week as I’m off to France. No, not to play with scaffolding (sadly), but to have vicar school en Francais for a week. I don’t go to France for fourteen years and the I end up going three times in four months – typical!

Heart warming fuzziness on the Jubilee Line

It’s rare that you experience heart-warming moments on the commute to work, or actually, on the London Underground full stop. But yesterday morning, my entire 20mins on the Jubilee Line was an emotionally restorative journey.

For one thing, I got a seat straight away. (Friday morning is usually quieter than any other day, plus I was running a little late so had missed the school crowd.) This would have made me pretty happy, but then I realised that my seat was next to someone holding a super-cute baby.
Unusually, it was the father, rather than the mother taking their child into town. The presence of the baby transformed our section of the carriage. A large man in a grimy anorak sat opposite, engaged in a game of “peepo” with his copy of the Metro, which had her in stitches until he got off a couple of stops later. (I was almost as sad as she that he missed her wave goodbye!)
Then a very odd thing happened – the father struck up a conversation with me. This NEVER happens. People do NOT talk on the underground, you just don’t. But all the way to Baker Street we chatted about nurseries, the obstacles for buggies on London Transport and whether I had children (I was unreasonably surprised by this question, I keep forgetting that I could feasibly be a mother of several offspring!).
Abbie, the small child in question, kept me entertained with wide-eyed looks and smiles, I complimented her on the pink shoes that she seemed very proud of (she pointed at them repeatedly, saying “shoes, shoes”) and did my usual things that endear me to small children – making faces and generally being an idiot.
We all got off at my station, and my last sight of her was as I looked down the escalator behind me – she was still waving goodbye.
The power of a small child…it was Friday morning, I was exhausted, yet I felt warm and fuzzy and overall pleased with life. Hopefully one day I’ll bump into them again.