Monday, 26 September 2011

Things To Do With Your Child #8 - Public Transport

Children are chauffeured everywhere these days.  Everyone seems to own a car, and they're bundled into them from the word go and taken from pillar to post - baby signing classes, sensory hours, rhyme time, playgroup, music classes, soft play, baby gym - it's never ending.  While I'm not denouncing cars (I can't drive, but that's my own choice, and if I ever pull my finger out and learn how to, my life would be much easier.  I can completely see how they end up getting used so much), or baby and toddler classes (absolutely not my bag and I don't think they're of any major benefit, but you've got to get through the days as best as you can, so if you like them, go for it), but I do think that an important learning opportunity is being missed out on here.  Walking, being pushed in a pushchair, going on buses and train journeys takes a fair bit longer than going by car, but the potential for learning is huge.  Think of all the things you can point out while you walk, all the tiny details that you miss as you whizz by in your car, the infinite number of sweet wrappers, blobs of gum and bits of debris that your toddler can study in minute detail as you bellow at them to "hurry the Jesusing hell up" like an irascible shrew in dire need of beta blockers.

Likewise, train and bus journeys may not be the most easy thing to undertake with a toddler in tow, but there's scenery to point out, new experiences to be had, buttons to be pressed, 'pull only in an emergency' cords to prevent them from yanking.  Above all, (most) children really enjoy a trip on a bus or a train.  It doesn't really matter where you're going to - the trip is the best bit at this age.  Go on - bite the bullet, gird your loins and hop on a peasant wagon occasionally.  It will be worth it. 


You will need:
A bus/train/tram of choice.
A destination.
A selection of shiny pennies for the fare.
Nerves of steel.

Risk assessment:
Child may lurch off seat due to sudden stops, however the greater risk is that they'll embarrass you horribly by remarking upon another passenger's body odour.

Amount of time it wastes in the never ending day:
Completely dependent on length of journey.  We usually manage to dispense with an entire morning in this way.

Today dawned with one of those glorious autumnal mornings full of dappled sunlight and dew on the grass.  It was a day for being outside and going somewhere different, so I decided to take Rory on the train.  It's a 40 minute leisurely stroll to the nearest station, but not a problem if we take the pushchair, plus, to get there you have to walk up a particularly idyllic avenue lined with horse chestnut trees.  We could stop along the way and gather conkers (I refer you back to the point about the dappled sunlight and the dew and stuff).  OK, so we'd only be going to Crewe (an entirely joyless place) to have a hot chocolate and a muffin in the cafe and then come back again, but that wasn't the point.

Here is where I shall mutter about "best laid plans" and "bloody toddlers".  Rory was quite taken with the idea of going on a train, having not been on one for  about a year, but then inexplicably decided that he would not be wearing any clothes today and would instead lie on the floor in a floppy, immovable mass of limbs.  It took 15 minutes for him to stop being a pain in the backside, then I lost the travel potty liners, and by the time I'd found them he'd removed his shoes and thrown them behind the TV.  Eventually we left the house and set off at a brisk trot.  All ideas of conker gathering in the sparkling dew were forgotten as I checked the time and broke in to a sprint, racing along the pavement with the pushchair bumping over cobbles, scattering pensioners to the four winds.  "WOOHOOOOO!" shouted Rory.  I said a silent prayer to the God of Dignity as I panted up the street; "Dear God, please let my thighs not be wobbling about too repulsively.  Please let this bra be supportive enough.  Please don't let me slip on a dog poo."  I hitched up my jeans as I ran, wondering how it's at all possible that they can simultaneously create a muffin top and slip down, revealing my pants to all and sundry.

We arrived at the station just as the train pulled out.  People on the opposite platform looked at me with sorrow in their eyes, and a fair bit of disgust as well as sweat had started to pool above my eyebrows.  The next train to Crewe was in an hour's time.  Fine,  we'd just go somewhere in the opposite direction.  I decided upon Alderley Edge, home to a lot of pink velour tracksuited footballer's wives and tweedy ladies who lunch.  I lugged the pushchair up 55 steps and down another 55 steps over to the other platform, having been informed by the ticket attendant that if you're wheelchair bound and want to go to Manchester, you have to get the train to Crewe and then get a train back the other way because the steps are the only way over to the other platform.  Nice.  The train appeared, we got on it, and Rory spent 15 minutes of bliss hopping up and down and chattering excitedly.

We arrived at Alderley Edge in good spirits, Rory having been made a fuss of by the ticket man. "Do you need to wee?" I asked, brandishing the travel potty.  "NO I DO NOT" came the reply.  I bundled him back into the pushchair, tackled another several hundred steps, and went in search of a cafe.  I bypassed Costa Coffee in favour of a little independent place, then wished I hadn't.  We weaved our way to a table at the back, and as I unclipped my boy from the buggy, I realised that he had urinated all over it.  Oh God.  A quick look around the room confirmed that I couldn't get the pushchair into the toilet. and it was occupied anyway, so, sweating still, I pulled him out, yanked off his trousers and pants there and then and flashed a mutinous look that said "come on, make my day, dare to tut at me" at all the other customers while I put fresh clothes on him.  The owner looked thoroughly delighted that we were using her busy cafe as a baby changing facility, and appeared positively homicidal as Rory remarked loudly that "there something very pongy indeed in here mummy" (I think he was referring to the freshly roasted coffee).  We shared an overpriced chocolate milkshake as quickly as possible, paid up and left, Rory sitting on an emergency plastic bag, wee dripping from the buggy in an insolent little trail from our seat to the door.

The journey back was uneventful but pleasant.  My son bounced happily in his seat, enjoying the wind in his hair through the open window of the train, and on the walk back home, we did stop and collect conkers, although entrusting Rory with the full bucket of them was a mistake as it only ensured that he had a full arsenal of weaponry to fling at the ginger cat from number 129 as we turned the corner to our street.

Now, why on earth would you ferry your child to and from a soulless class when you could have a morning like that?  And has anyone got the number of a good driving instructor?  


  1. Pubic transport sounds great and to boot you did not have to put your piss ridden child and buggy into your own beautiful shiny metal personal conveyance machine.

  2. I at loss for both money and inspiration tried this a little whole back it was amaxing how far 2 children and I could get on £4 2 train trips 3 trams and 2 buses later, I was left wondering whre the heck we were and how to get home.
    so as a quick not to anyone inspireed I strongly recomend planning, not just what you want to travle on but where you are going and how to get home.