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Posts Tagged ‘Preston’

‘Well, he’s got that house in LA, hasn’t he?’

‘Oh yes, he’s doing ever so well. House in London, and that lovely girlfriend. So pretty.’

‘Isn’t she just. Mind you, she gets to live in LA with him so she’s landed on her feet.’

A group of Lancastrian ladies sit in the atrium cafe of the Harris Museum & Art Gallery, putting the world to rights. They’re plump, of a certain age and wearing the soft-hued attire that’s been peddled by M&S since time immemorial. As I sit down, they all turn and say hello before resuming their conversation.

‘I’m not so sure about that Britain’s Got Talent, though. Not as good as the X-Factor.’

‘He’s just diversifying. Canny, that’s what he is, a proper businessman.’

I realise that my fellow diners are talking about Simon Cowell, although they speak of him so fondly that I can’t help but wonder if they’re tentatively related. Certainly, they share the same love of high-waisted trousers.

I unpack Milo’s lunch. There are no highchairs so I balance him on my knee, one arm round his waist while I feed him with the other.

All of a sudden, he lunges for something on the table. He slips and falls. For a terrible, heart stopping moment, all I can see is my tiny tot hurtling towards a floor made of hard, head-splitting marble. My stomach lurches. I drop the spoon, and make to grab him but all I manage to get a hold of is his chubby little arm. I stop him hitting the floor, but he swings and bangs his head on the table.

His howls ricochet around the atrium like bullets; his cries amplified by all those dangerously hard surfaces. The ladies who lunch crowd and coo: is he OK? Ooh, that happened to both of mine when they were little. Don’t you worry, it could have happened to anyone.

Concerned staff rush over, asking me what happened. Milo is still screaming and I feel his head with my fingertips, reading his scalp like Braille as I search for bumps or bleeding. I have to squash down the urge to cry as I realise I’m completely out of my depth. What if he’s concussed, I think. I’m in the middle of Preston and I don’t even know where the bloody hospital is.
The ladies look him over and pronounce Milo fine. He stops crying and instead begins smiling for his new audience. Someone brings a cold cloth to press on his head, which he bats impatiently away. I take a deep breath and although it stems the rising tide of panic I still feel sick. There is nothing so fragile and vulnerable as your first-born (the Mumsnet nickname for such babies is PFB – Precious First Born). I’m nowhere nearly as neurotic as I could be, but in this café in Preston the world suddenly becomes a terrifyingly dangerous place.

I gather up our stuff, bundle Milo into his pushchair, bid the ladies goodbye and step out into the bright sunshine. I never, ever want to go back to the Harris Museum. I never, ever want to look at that nasty marble floor again. As I wheel Milo back down Preston high street, all I want to do is take my boy home, lock the front door and protect him from the world outside.

‘Would you look at that baby?’ says a passer-by to her friend.

I stop and peer at Milo. He’s sat in his chair, clapping his hands and giving big beaming smiles to everyone who walks by.

‘You’re a lucky one, aren’t you?’ says the woman to me.

I nod and smile weakly. I am so, so lucky.

Ratings. Babychanging facilities: Yes. Cafe: Yes, no highchairs. Buggy-friendly? Yes. Staff: Lovely, as is everyone in Preston (or so it seemed to us). Cost: Free. Worth it? Yes, but we’re not going back!

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