Friday, 26 November 2010

Spreading the love on the tube...

This is my favourite time of year for cycling. Dry, crisp, cold and wonderful.

And I'm on the tube. Sigh.

The good news is that Eenie, the cause of my non-cycling commutes, is getting ever bigger. He (and he is a he we've discovered) is enjoying wriggling and kicking and has decided mummy's bladder is a glorious toy to be messed with whenever possible.

He's also getting heavier and, with my dodgy hips, the regular long stands on the tube are getting increasingly uncomfortable. After a week of ligament pain I gave in and decided to try out the TfL 'Baby on board!' badges.

Having approached three separate stations, two of whom had run out, I was handed two brand new shiny badges with not even a cursory glance to check I was, in fact, with child.

I decided to try the badge out on the way home. I forwent it from Herne Hill but, when I hit Farringdon at rush hour, I decided to go for it. I put it on, unzipped my coat to display the belly and stepped aboard the packed carriage. Nothing happened.

Crammed into a corner, no one had seen my badge. Sigh. I was resigned to another painful stand, refusing to ask for a seat in order to give the badge a proper go.

One stop in, a miracle occurred, a girl lunged for a seat but, as she started to sink down she looked up, saw the badge, and blushed. 'I'm so sorry! I've just seen your badge, would you like a seat?' Hurrah!

I thanked her profusely and sat down in relief, my hips were killing me. I thought the joy was over, but no.

Having witnessed this chivalry, the man next to me leapt to his feet and, turning to the lady who'd given her seat to me, exclaimed 'Please have my seat, I don't need it'. When she sat I thanked her again for giving up her seat and she said she was glad I was wearing the badge as she often worried that, especially with winter clothing, she might inadvertently offend someone by offering and the badge swept away that anxiety.

At the next stop a priority seat was left empty. Instead of the usual scrum to grab it, there was a lot of thoughtful looking around before an older lady stepped forward to sit down. I'd like to hope that the generosity showed by fellow commuters had reminded everyone that not everyone can stand.

I'll admit I felt bit awkward and naughty, a bit like I'd emotionally blackmailed the seat out from under another commuter. It was far outweighed by the physical relief of resting my aching pelvis though.

I won't wear the badge every day, but I'll certainly be whipping it out when I feel rough.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Check out those wheels...

We've all done it. That attempt to give a stranger's set of wheels a nonchalant sweep of the eyes. The internal monologue of why your choice is eminently superior, the almost imperceptible nod of approval when it clearly outclasses your purchase.

Yes, I have have pram envy.

We have yet to purchase a contraption but the attitude and technique I perfected for perving on others' bikes has merged seamlessly with my new pregnant status and the brands of Colnago, Pinarello, Dawes and Specialized have been replaced with Maclaren, Quinny, iCandy and the dreaded Bugaboo.

The only thing that now separates me from the others on Mumsnet is my chortles of glee at descriptions of mums and dads going to the local bike shop to get their punctured tyres repaired.


Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Goodbye house

Today my childhood home is handed over to its new owners.

My parents have owned that house for around 25 years and I have lived in it all of the life I'm able to remember. My dad decided to up their already stretched budget after meeting the headmaster of the local school and deciding this was the man he wanted to oversee his small children's education.

It was FILTHY when we moved in. A wooden parque floor so dirty my dad thought it was plain concrete until they started cleaning it. The back room had housed a large dog, whose wee ad pooled under the carpet and whose paws had ripped the paint off the door.

Backing onto a local park, it was the envy of some of my friends. We were able to grab bikes or just wellies and play where my parents could literally bellow off the balcony that it was time to come in. When locked out, we became expert climbers as we scaled the eight-foot alley gate, hopped the garden fence and braced across the old outside loo roof to ascend to the balcony. The neighbours never worried, 'Is someone breaking in?!', 'No, it's one of the Amazonian women tribe whose forgotten her keys again.'

Over the years mum and dad invested in a loft extension and, more recently, a kitchen extension, to accommodate three rapidly growing girls who turned into grumpy teenagers and then women. One by one we left, my older sister returning briefly after university and then my younger sister and her boyfriend moving in again when dad had the stroke and mum needed support. I moved out the week before my 21st birthday and have not lived there the seven years' since. I never moved for though. While my sisters have lived in Manchester, Norfolk and Walthamstowe between them, I always remained close by. I still live around a mile from that house and have always come home frequently for cups of tea, to reassure moomin that I wasn't killed by the car that hit me last year, to cook for my dad once a week when he was ill (and sneak him out to the pub) and, recently, to tell my parents that they were going to be grandparents.

The local community that sustained us all through various massive upheavals is all around and many are sad that my parents have chosen to leave, but although the house remains, much has changed.

When we moved in the neighbours were mainly older couples who had lived in the area since the war, even when new people moved in we all knew them. I babysat for local children when I got old enough and on Christmas day people would gather to sup champagne in the street together and comment on how big each other's children had got.

With rising property prices and a rebranding of the area as a 'village', the only people who can now afford to buy in my parents' street are those working in banking, whose looking to rip the houses apart and resell them and no one knows who these neighbours are, because they rarely talk to us 'oldies'. The local school that so impressed my father has gone from strength to strength and there are far too many children vying for the spaces that inevitably go to those who can afford to live yards from the gates.

My parents have had their bikes stolen twice in three years, burglaries are on the rise and last week a girl was raped in the park I played in as a child. It's time to leave.

My parents chose a couple with a toddler who are planning to expand their family, in the hope that the house would become a family home once more.

I'm sad that my parents will no longer live round the corner and that Eenie, when he or she comes in April, will never walk round the house I grew up in, but I understand why they sold it. Following dad's stroke it became financially necessary, but it also means a clean break. Their children are adults, and it's about time my parents followed their dream.

Goodbye house, I only hope that the next family likes you as much as we did.