Precious time

You might remember that the first week of my shared parental leave was spent with Claire and both children on holiday in Wales and Ireland. Now, I don’t want to give the impression that spending time alone with my daughter is a metaphorical can to be kicked down the road, much like Brexit or a break-up conversation in your early 20s, but we didn’t have any one-on-one time until last Friday — the end of week two. That is the pitfall of not looking at your other child’s nursery closure calendar when planning your shared parental leave. Make no mistake, I spent week two in the deep end with both children and an overflowing laundry basket. But anyway.

Somehow we muddled through to Friday (although I suspect regression therapy will be necessary to remember how) when Claire was off work and took the boy off to see the Lion King. Elodie and I were tasked not only with spending the day together, but taking two trains to a shopping centre at the other side of London which, according to (but not guaranteed by) H&M’s website, was one of only two places in London to stock a particular t-shirt the boy had requested for his birthday. More on that after some train chat.

Our local railway line has recently benefited from a new fleet of trains, the British Rail Class 710. No doubt taking their cue from the family carriages operated by Swiss Federal Railways, London Overground’s new trains are properly kitted out for the infant traveller. London isn’t Lucern, of course, so there are no climbing frames, slides or games; instead, there are large open areas of floor, tip-up seats, and the happy-go-lucky sorts of people who want to get to Gospel Oak just after 11am. I can’t speak for every nine month old, but mine is perfectly happy crawling around on hard floors, pulling herself up on seats, and waving and smiling at anyone who happens to be near. She can do all these things at home, of course, but the train allows her to get slightly grubby, experience the thrill of being chinned by a spring-loaded chair, and be called a ‘lovely little boy’ by a well-meaning moron.

Getting the train around to Shepherd’s Bush means changing at Gospel Oak, opening up a double game of Overground Lift Roulette. It’s a game you should never play because the lifts never fucking work. Given the complete lack of response on Twitter, it seems neither TfL nor London Underground seem to give a toss. One for a later FOI crusade, perhaps.

Back to the shopping. H&M obviously didn’t have the required birthday t-shirt, but given I’ve got the summer off I decided to treat myself to a new t-shirt instead. Premium cotton, of course. You’ve got to do these things when you’re aiming to not wear a collar until October, and I hadn’t circumnavigated London’s orbital railway lines with a baby to leave empty handed. We caught the train home again and used the second carriage as a makeshift dining car, albeit without tables, crockery or what might be described as solid food — more or less what you’d expect of a British Rail buffet car in 1981.

Fast forward to Sunday lunchtime and the frissive sensation you get off the back of a four year old’s birthday party that was fuelled by a lack of sleep, the best part of a whole pizza and some cans of Amstel (which all parents in attendance agreed was an acceptable morning beer). I was wearing my new t-shirt, with the premium organic cotton, for the first time. Life was good.

The party finishes and my bladder is three cans of Amstel to the wind. My fractious daughter is asleep in the sling on my front. We set off on the twenty minute walk home. Nature and cheap nappies soon conspire to cover that new, premium organic, cotton t-shirt in piss — much to the delight of the assailant, who subsequently awakens and spends the rest of the journey home laughing at me, my full bladder, and my piss-soaked new t-shirt. I decide it’s probably OK to have a favourite child after all.