Category Archives: shopping with baby

The end of a [cramped, often sweaty but cool, though, right?] era

“Fun to be seen driving” are the words used by TopGear to describe the VW Beetle. Having driven one for the best part of two and a half years, I would add that indeed, it is possibly more fun to be seen driving a Beetle than it is in fact driving a Beetle. Not that I didn’t love every minute of being said driver of my particularly iridescent sapphire specimen.

I bought my Beetle in the summer of 2012 as my ultimate, single girl-about-town classy set of wheels, despite being a) not actually single and b) far too terrified to actually drive it anywhere about my town – being London at the time – except out, via the south circular, to work. But man, did I love being the girl driving the Beetle. Pedestrians would stare enviously (or so I choose to interpret) as they hastily retracted their toes from the zebra crossing, other Beetle owners waved, and car washers would chuckle and mock the little fake flower in the test tube vase next to the steering wheel.

Around six months after I bought my Beetle, I got pregnant. Approximately seven and a half months later, upon receiving ownership of a fairly standard-sized travel system pushchair, I discovered just how incompatible this car is with family life. Even without a seat, the frame simply did not fit in the bloody boot. I had to take the two back wheels off. Every. Single. Time. If that wasn’t enough, I of course had gone for the three door, four seat version in a pique of I’m-only-25-I’m-not-even-thinking-of-having-kids-yet logic. This made getting baby + car seat in and out PARTICULARLY FUN. I’m not even going to talk about the beige interior. Suffice to say it doesn’t meld well with babies, or any of the items said creatures ingest and… yeah.

It was also around this time – being the summer of 2013 – that I realised my most heinous oversight at the time of purchase. The car did not have air conditioning. Yes, it had heated seats and a standard heating system which made it a particularly cosy drive in the winter, and I hadn’t really noticed the lack of AC too much the summer before, when I’d been a svelte size 8-10 with thighs that didn’t rub together and was still in Beetle honeymoon period. But, two stones bigger and with a new, 120mile round commute to and from work, the novelty of my Beetle ownership wore off around the time I heaved myself into the driver’s seat ahead of a two hour jaunt on the m25 and saw the car’s thermometer merrily reading 40 degrees.

The sweat just went everywhere.

Still, I muddled through and continued to enjoy the odd moments of pretending I was still that young, single girl-about-town as I motored down the A322, singing along to Rihanna on the iPod dock as the baby snoozed out of eye-line. Then, this Christmas, I picked my sister and her two kids up from the airport. They had one suitcase and a pushchair. Something most cars, even neat little hatchbacks, can handle without so much as a tailgate dip of protest. Not my bloody car. The suitcase would only go flat in the boot if I sat on it. The pushchair would not go anywhere except wedged in front of my sister in the front, with her passenger seat as far back as it would go (fortunately my second niece is tiny for her age. And I’m fairly sure her hip dysplasia was diagnosed before the subsequent 200 mile journey from airport to Devon.)

It was then I had my Roy Scheider moment. I was going to need a bigger car. Sure, I wasn’t going to get eaten by a shark if I didn’t, but having any more babies invoked images of driving along with the boot duck-taped half open over one buggy while I towed the other along behind me. Besides, I was sick of having to climb into the back seat – even with the time-perfected twist, stoop and pivot – every time I needed to get my increasingly large Lara in and out. The mileage was still decent, paintwork fairly spotless, age not bad and I had six months on the MOT.

car fb

You will be pleased to know that though I am silly enough to sacrifice any serious offers of purchase for cheap Facebook LOLs by posting a light-hearted advert including the word sh!t in the description, I’m not quite so stupid that I would make this blog post live before keys changed hands. Therefore, I am happy to announce that the Beetle has gone *pang* and I am now the proud owner of its much more sensible, much more bigger brother, the VW Tiguan. The drive is noisier, the diesel more expensive and I am now one of those SUV mums, but the other day I managed to get BOTH buggies and a suitcase into the boot without obstructing any vision out the back window. I guess that girl about town grew up. And got really boring.

 

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The kindness of strangers?

Setting: Generic supermarket. Harrassed-looking me navigates shopping trolley (always filled with just enough items to make it slightly unwieldy) replete with Lara in the front seat. Strange person (usually a middle-aged woman but very occasionally a man – in which case just replace all ‘she’ pronouns referring to Lara with ‘he’) randomly approaches.

Person Randomly Approaching Trolley: “Oooh, hello sweetheart! Aren’t you gorgeous? Hello! Helloooo!”

LARA: “…”

P.R.A.T.: “What’s your name then, Snookums?”

[LONG PAUSE. LARA STARES BLANKLY AT P.R.A.T. AS A LOOK OF SLOW COMPREHENSION DAWNS ON MY FACE]

ME: “Oh. Er, Lara.”

P.R.A.T.: “What a lovely name you’ve got, Lara! Are you going to give me a smile?”

[LARA BARES HER TEETH IN A SOMEWHAT MENACING FASHION]

P.R.A.T.: “What a beautiful smile! Look at all those teethy pegs! How old are you, Lara?”

ME: “Nearly ten months…”

P.R.A.T.: “Ten months! She’s a big girl, isn’t she?”

ME: “Um… Not really?”

[LONG PAUSE, DURING WHICH P.R.A.T. STARES INTENSELY AT MY FACE, WHICH BEGINS TO TAKE ON A LOOK OF INCREASING ALARM]

P.R.A.T.: “Just seeing if she looks like you. She doesn’t at all, does she.”

ME: “Oh. Er… maybe a little? But no, she does look more like her dad I guess…”

P.R.A.T. [SWIFTLY TURNS ATTENTION BACK TO LARA]: “Well I better get off – bye bye now! Can you say bye bye?”

ME: “Say bye bye Lara!”

[LARA STARES AT ME. I BEGIN WAVING MANIACALLY IN HER FACE]

ME: “Wave bye bye, Lara!”

[P.R.A.T. ALSO BEGINS WAVING IN LARA’S FACE. LARA BARES HER TEETH AGAIN]

LARA: “DUH! Duh Duh Duh, DUH!”

P.R.A.T.: “Ahhh! I think she likes me, don’t you sweetheart?”

[LARA BEGINS TO GROWL AND TURN RED]

ME: “Right! Off we go!”

 

And here’s that scene once again, with added thought voices for me and Lara.

ME: Come on then, let’s get this done before it gets too close to naptime and you start getting grouchy. Just dodge this OAP, and this other one and oh Christ here she comes…

Person Randomly Approaching Trolley: “Oooh, hello sweetheart! Aren’t you gorgeous? Hello! Helloooo!”

LARA: “…Who the bloody hell are you?…”

P.R.A.T.: “What’s your name then, Snookums?”

LARA: Snookums?

ME: Well obviously she’s not going to answer you, can’t you see she’s like ten months old?

LARA: Snookums?

[PAUSE]

LARA: FOR GOD’S SAKE MOTHER WILL YOU WAKE UP AND TELL HER MY NAME’S NOT SNOOKUMS!

ME: Oh, you’re looking at me now. OH, I’m supposed to answer. Gotcha. “Oh. Er, she’s Lara.”

P.R.A.T.: “What a lovely name you’ve got, Lara! Are you going to give me a smile?”

LARA: Really. After Snookums? REALLY?

ME: Come on, smile. Just smile at the old dear and maybe she’ll leave us alone

P.R.A.T.: “What a beautiful smile! Look at all those teethy pegs! How old are you, Lara?”

LARA: Actually, I was doing Hannibal Lecter. I’ll eat your liver with a nice Chianti

ME: “Nearly ten months…” Getting used to this talking-to-someone-who-is-talking-to-someone-else-but-expecting-me-to-answer now. Feel a bit like a horse whisperer or Dr Dolittle.

P.R.A.T.: “Ten months! She’s a big girl, isn’t she?”

LARA: I BEG YOUR PARDON?

ME: “Um… Not really?”

[PAUSE]

ME: Ok this is getting a bit weird. She’s gone from not looking at me at all to staring with the intensity of very unBritish owl. She’s actually squinting a bit. I really hope she’s not having a stroke.

P.R.A.T.: “Just seeing if she looks like you. She doesn’t at all, does she.”

ME: “Oh. Er… maybe a little? But no, she does look more like her dad I guess…”

Sigh. I know it is perfectly true that my child does not look a whole lot like me but it still annoys me a tiny bit when a stranger points this out because it feels, just a tiny bit, as if they are negating, just a tiny bit, the fact of my spending 41 weeks carrying her around in my body and then 40 odd hours of expelling her thusly.

P.R.A.T. [SWIFTLY TURNS ATTENTION BACK TO LARA]: “Well I better get off – bye bye now! Can you say bye bye?”

ME: “Say bye bye Lara!”

LARA: Are you insane, mother? You know I can only say five syllables and ‘bye’ is not one of them!

ME: “Wave bye bye, Lara!”

LARA: Shan’t. First she calls me Snookums and then she calls me fat. “DUH! Duh Duh Duh, DUH!” This is not babble. This is what I think of you all.

P.R.A.T.: “Ahhh! I think you like me, don’t you sweetheart?”

LARA: Actually, madam, I’m trying to defecate.

Me: “Right! Off we go!”

 


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