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Wednesday, 14 March 2012

A tale of two towns - part one

Saturday was a game of two halves.  Having managed to forget half the things I went into town for the previous day, I decided to brave the Saturday morning shopping and tourist frenzy with two children in tow.

It started well.  Thomas obligingly climbed into the buggy and remained there.  He refrained from his usual practice of issuing loud instructions about where I should and should not go, and practically exploding with rage if defied.  Ben took one look around at the crowds and burrowed into the depths of the sling where he huddled for the rest of the trip.
I will admit that Thomas’s co-operation was largely secured by the simple technique of bribing him with the promise of cake if he behaved.  The problem with this approach is that once the aforementioned cake is safely in the bribee’s greedy little tummy, the incentive to continue behaving is effectively gone. 

Things went downhill fast.
Quite literally.

We went into Marks and Spencers and I made the catastrophic mistake of assuming that Thomas would act like a normal human being when asked to apply himself to the task of getting from one floor to another.  So I ejected him from the buggy and told him to get on the escalator.  Which, to be fair to him, he did.  Sort of. 
Unfortunately the problem with bunny-hopping onto an escalator is that if you don’t time it just right, you are liable to finish up sprawled upside down with your feet waving around several steps higher than your head.  Which is of course exactly what happened.  Carnage ensued as the other occupants of the escalator tried to climb up or down to help.  Thomas screamed blue murder while I yelled helpful things like “WHAT DO YOU THINK YOU ARE DOING?” and “IS THAT HOW YOU GET ON AN ESCALATOR? IS IT? IS IT?” and eventually resorted to picking him up by his waistband while clutching the buggy with the other hand.

When we reached the top, we had Words.  We discussed the matter and he agreed that he would walk onto the escalator in a normal manner on the way back down.  Having secured this promise I purchased pants (which is, after all, the only thing anyone goes into M&S for, unless it is Christmas and a Belgian biscuit selection is required) and we headed back to the down escalator. 
He attempted to crawl onto it.

This time he managed a sort-of sideways sprawl which wasn’t too disastrous until he decided to try to climb back up the escalator towards me.  This did not work out well and once again he found himself upside down.  On this occasion there was a nice man up-escalator from us who took the buggy so I could pick up a kicking, screaming Thomas and pin him under my arm.  Ben stuck his head out briefly to see what all the fuss was about and made the wise decision to retreat into the sling once more and pretend it wasn’t happening.  Aware that I was being watched disapprovingly (and no-one does disapproving like the average M&S shopper) I felt the need to assert some parental discipline.
“There will be NO MORE ESCALATORS for you,” I announced as we stepped onto solid ground.

At which point Thomas threw himself onto the floor and lay there wailing “I want escalatooooooors” over and over again.  People were now stopping for a good, solid bit of disapproving rather than just indulging in fleeting disapproval as they passed.
I was firm.  “No more escalators,” I reiterated, and left the store carrying Thomas in the approved tantrumming-toddler fashion (hands under armpits, child dangling like a sack of uncooperative potatoes), attempting to push the buggy ahead of me with my foot.

We returned to the car and I breathed a sigh of relief as Thomas had a brief resurgence of cooperation and climbed into his car seat himself.  As I started to put the buggy in the boot, there was a blood-curdling scream and I turned round to find him dangling upside down out of the car-door, one leg wedged improbably between the front seat and the side of the car.  There is only one thing that can be said in those circumstances.
“How did you manage that?”

He didn’t know, he informed me, peering up at me from about three inches off the carpark floor.
At this point a woman pulled up beside us, clearly about to wait for the parking space.  Now I should point out that the carpark wasn’t completely full.  It was busy, I grant you, but there were other spaces to be had.  No.  She wanted this one.  Despite the fact that she had children in the car and could therefore be expected to have some inkling of the time required to load small children and buggies into a car, she decided she wanted the parking space currently occupied by the woman with the upside down toddler, the buggy that had tipped over under the weight of shopping bags, and the sleeping baby.

I righted Thomas and left him to climb back into his seat while I unloaded the bags, got the buggy upright again and began the complicated process of collapsing it.  Allegedly this buggy can be put down with one hand.  I am sure it can, but not by me.  There is presumably a separate set of instructions for buggy novices which begins “Get down on your hands and knees and take hold of the bit you are supposed to be able to operate with your foot before using your head to push the seat along the chassis….”
I eventually had everything loaded in the boot and I strapped Thomas in before going round to the other side to start unwrapping Ben.  I can only assume that the other woman did not realise I had a second child.  That is the only charitable explanation for what she decided to do next.

She wound her window down in order to stick her head out and inform me “I am waiting for this space, you know.”
“Yes,” I said. 

“Could you take much more time?” she asked.
I gave this a moment’s consideration before replying.

“Yes,” I said. 
I unloaded Ben from the sling, at which point the woman put her window back up.  I like to think she realised by now that she had made a complete arse of herself.  I then carefully folded the sling and took care finding the best part of the boot to store it.  I checked that everything was just where I wanted it before closing the boot.  I then walked around both sides of the car to make sure that Thomas and Ben were properly strapped in, before making my leisurely way to the driver’s seat. 

Unfortunately, after I had got in and put my seatbelt on, I realised that my bag of Thornton’s toffee was still in one of the shopping bags.  Clearly I could not possibly be expected to make it all the way home without toffee to sustain me.  So out I got again and made my way round to the boot.  I extracted the toffee after a bit of rummaging and held it up triumphantly, sure that the other woman would share my pleasure.  Finally ready, I gave her a beaming smile, got back into the car and vacated the space, having demonstrated to her satisfaction that yes, I certainly could take more time.

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