Posts Tagged ‘Chorlton’

There was ice on our windows this morning. Nothing strange about that, you might think: it’s been bloody cold of late and there’s ice everywhere. Except there was ice on the inside of our windows this morning. And that’s why, despite having got up around 7.30am, Milo and I both stayed in bed until gone 9am, and attempted to get dressed under the duvet (we were surprisingly successful).

This week we have been in the grip of the worst winter in 30 years. Newspaper headlines scream of ‘ice land’ (i.e. the whole of the UK covered in snow), ‘snow storm’ (council bosses narked that teachers have been off, and schools closed, all week) and ‘the big freeze’ (motorways jammed by jack-knifed lorries).

But the big news for us this week centres on snowmen. Tuesday morning arrives and it soon transpires that no one is going anywhere. Our car is snowed in, the buses aren’t running and we can’t push the pushchair through the drifts, so Simon, Milo and I decide to stay at home, as does half our street.

Out front, our neighbours build a snow family: a mum and dad, two kids and then, in a final flourish, a dog and a cat. They sit proudly on the pavement, the sunlight glinting on their icy forms. I take a snap on the way back from the pub that evening (schools and offices may have been shut but it’s amazing how pubs and shops manage to stay open for business).

Something terrible occurs that evening, some time between getting home and getting up in the morning: the snow family are attacked, their hats and scarves stolen. Even the dog and cat get it: all six shapes have had their heads knocked off during the night.

Thing is, it’s not a one-off. We built a snowman in our front garden just before Christmas, sticking him on our garden wall. We woke up the next day and he’d gone. Not just his head or his scarf but the whole shebang: someone had stolen our snowman.

Milo took the news surprisingly well. Simon just shrugged and said, ‘People will nick anything,’ but that doesn’t appear to be the case here. I mean, who on earth would steal a snowman?

And other snowmen on other roads don’t appear to suffer the same fate: I’ve had plenty of time, as I’ve hefted and dragged the pushchair back from the childminder’s, to look at other people’s snowmen, and they’ve remained unmolested. No, what’s appears to be happening on our road is far more sinister. Our road, it seems, is in the midst of some sort of snow war.

Snowmen, snow families and snow animals: if you go down to our road today, you’d better go in disguise.

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It’s freezing but we’ve decided to brave the chill air for a walk. Milo is tottering along at top speed, giddy with joy at being let loose amongst so much wide, open space. He stops to point at a leaf (‘dat’). He totters for a bit, then stops to point at a tree (‘dat’). And then he legs it, giggling, and falls on his face (‘waaaaaaah!’).

Poor little mite has gravel embedded in his nose. Tears forge a muddy, and slightly bloody, track across his cheeks. It’s not the first time he’s fallen over today, and, as I give him a consolatory cuddle, I wonder whether his outfit is to blame.

Trussed up like a penguin, hands stuffed into mittens; wearing Freddie’s old winter coat, which is several sizes too big; hat almost over his eyes and jogging bottoms that are too big and with elasticated cuffs so that they bunch round his ankles like an MC Hammer reject: he doesn’t walk. He waddles.

Last week, he fell off a slide. The day before that, he slipped out of my reach and fell off a chair.

A little later, we drop into a friend’s house for a cup of tea. Milo behaves admirably well, then manages to lip-butt the table. His lip swells up and his mouth is bloody; my friend’s pristine sheepskin rug is in fear of its never-been-soiled life.

As I get a wriggling Milo out of his cot the next morning, and I look at the scabs on his nose that have formed overnight, I think: if I fell down so many times during the course of the day, I’d never get out of bed.


Ratings. Babychanging facilities: No. Cafe: On Beech Road, yes. Buggy-friendly? Lots rough ground but if you stick to the paths, yes. Cost: Free. Worth it? Yes, as long as your little one isn’t quite as accident prone as mine.

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Before I had Milo, I never knew that there was such as thing as a Soft Play Centre. Marvellous things they are, too: Head Over Heels, a brightly coloured, toy-enhanced padded cell, is the only place where Milo can’t add to his substantial collection of bruises, and the fact that it’s practically at the end of my road only adds to its charms.

Milo and I are there with Tamara, Jonah and Eloise. The children have exhausted themselves on the slides, mats, climbing frames and ball pool and we’re now sitting in the café. Well, Tam, Jonah, Eloise and I are sitting; Milo is rolling around on the floor, chewing on an abandoned toy. Still, he looks happy enough.

The kids are eating; Tamara and I are chatting. Behind us at another table, two other mothers are doing the same. Their girls are older, and sitting like grown-ups in proper chairs. The eldest pushes her legs against the table and tips her chair back. She rocks backwards and then, in slow motion but before her mother can tell her to be careful, the chair swings over onto the floor.

The little girl goes crashing down and there’s a collective ‘ah’ as her head smacks against the hard lino. The girl howls, her mum scoops her up and we sit for a moment, the collective mothers and fathers, and each of us thinks, I hope she’s OK.

She is, of course. It’s a bump on the head is all; but there are a million such moments in a child’s life where you are a split second too late and they hurt themselves and you can only cuddle them and think, why didn’t I see that coming? You know, for all my flippancy, I love my boy more than anything in the world; with a terrible fierceness that frightens me because I know, just know, that I can’t watch him all the time. I can only look on as he makes his own way into the world and stand behind him, hoping that I’m there to catch him when he falls.

Ratings. Babychanging facilities: Of course. Cafe: Yes. Buggy-friendly? Of course. Cost: £1.20 for babies under 12 months. Worth it? Yes, although the cost goes up when they hit 1 year (to £3.95, and then £4.95 when they hit two), which seems a bit steep.

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Milo plays quite happily by himself these days. It’s lovely. He sits in his highchair or wedged on the sofa and bashes the c**p out of his assembled toys. He looks up occasionally to check I’m still there and then gets back to the job in hand (or hand in gob, as he’s teething again). Today he is sat on a beach towel in the garden, propped up by cushions. I’m sat next to him, reading a story by Edith Wharton:

“Mrs Elmer Boykin was a small, plump woman, to whose vague prettiness the lines of middle-age had given no meaning: as though whatever had happened to her had merely added to the sum total of her inexperience.”

My god, I think, that’s me. Every year it seems I know less; every day with Milo presents something startlingly new that has little or nothing to do with my, ahem, ace parenting skills. This morning it was the fact that when I opened my eyes it was 6am and I had, for the first time in eight months, slept for eight hours straight. More importantly, so had Milo (if we’re being pedantic, he’d actually slept for ten hours without a squeak).

‘Urgle burgle,’ says Milo as he chucks a plastic cup across the lawn.

I wonder whether that means ‘don’t worry Mum, last night was simply an oversight. I shall endeavour to wake up at least once during the night, as usual, from now on’ or whether it’s just Milo burbling happily.

‘I am Mrs. Elmer Boykin,’ says I, ‘and I know nothing about anything.’

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I’m perched on a stool in the Barbakan, Chorlton’s Polish bakery-cum-deli, tucking into teacakes and strong black coffee. Jo and I are talking about all sorts: weddings, babies, childminders, sleepless nights, a two year-old who wraps herself around her sleeping mother’s neck at 2am every morning, galleries in Berlin, Peter Saville and plans for a Will Alsop-inspired art project. Milo, meanwhile, has wrestled himself out of his giant blue bumper suit (you know, those big padded all-in-ones babies wear when it’s cold out), has had enough of being jigged up and down and is getting a bit grizzly.

‘Right, time to go,’ I say, jumping down off the stool and manhandling Milo back into both suit and pushchair.

Jo gathers herself together; Milo starts up a siren-like wail. Wah, waaaah, wah, waaaah.

‘Is that a tooth?’ says Jo.

Milo, rather obligingly, chooses this point to express his rage at a) being a bit tired and b) being in his pram and apparently not going anywhere. As he opens his mouth wider to let out a cry to make the whole of South Manchester tremble, Jo and I peer in, two dental explorers on the verge of a new discovery. And there, shining palely just under the gum, is what looks suspiciously like Milo’s First Tooth.

‘Oh god,’ I sigh, ‘and there was me thinking he was just being a little sod last night.’

It’s a strange moment: pride that my little lad is turning into a robust, independent chap; trepidation at the fact that I will have to start weaning him within the month; relief that I’ll be able to jack in breastfeeding and not have the child welded to my boobs at all hours of the day and night; and a sense of understanding. It’s hard to be rational at 4am, harder still to think that your baby isn’t just waking you up because they’re being bloody-minded (and, given his mother, if Milo turns out to be the most stubborn, bloody-minded babe in all of Mancunia I wouldn’t be surprised).

‘You’ve got Calpol, haven’t you?’ asks Jo.

It’s at that point Milo and I decide to pay a visit to the chemists. Calpol, here we come.

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So there I am, wheeling Milo through Chorlton with the kind of grim determination that only sleep deprivation can bring (‘you will have your nap, goddammit, you will have your nap…’), when I happen to pass a house with a wishing tree. I mutter under my breath something about wishing I had a baby that slept, and then trundled on, hoping that none of those frighteningly capable-looking Chorlton mummies had heard me. Later that night, when Little M had woken for the fourth time, I wondered if perhaps I should have hung my wish upon the tree, as per the instructions (below), as I clearly wasn’t anywhere near getting a good night’s sleep.

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