Friday, 19 February 2016

Pro Pram Rally Driver

I wouldn't have much time for video games if I wanted to play them these days.

In between feeding, changing and entertaining my daughter, I find barely enough moments spare to cook an edible evening meal and just about keep the flat from becoming unsanitary.

But if I was a gamer, I think my appetite for such thrills would be satiated by negotiating the streets and transport systems of London with my pram.

As a non-driver I had very little previous experience of steering, parking and three point turns. But after a crash course (sometimes literally) I feel I have earned Pro status.

Wheeling along London's pavements is very similar to how I imagine off-road driving to be. Potholes, bumps and haphazard inclines cause my pram to bounce around in all directions, as I try to dodge obstacles, puddles and people.

One road we have to use regularly features a series of bollards which are placed closer and closer to the wall as you progress, like an optical illusion, requiring real focus to traverse the pavement without colliding with at least one along the way.

Crossing roads can be a real challenge, with road-works meaning the designated crossing areas have been moved to where the pavement does not lower to meet the road. So we are forced to tip and tumble off sheer drops, before making a mad dash to haul the vehicle up the opposite curb before the lights turn green and the river of traffic pours forth once again.

Cyclists, with their sheer ignorance of red lights and tendency to whizz silently out from behind lorries and buses, are often far more dangerous a bullet to dodge than motor vehicles.

But buses can be pretty frustrating video game bosses in themselves.

I always knew Sadism must be one of the main qualities required to become a bus driver, because so many enjoy the sport of waiting at a stop when they see you running towards it, only to pull away at the last minute. But it seems they also love stopping on a Pelican Crossing just as the light turns green, ensuring you have no time to wheel a pram all the way around them and get to the other side in time.

And thank goodness for the old analogy of buses all coming at once. Because once you have a baby in your life, you wait for about a year, and then the first few buses that arrive at your stop are already filled up with buggies.

But you have to be patient and rely on the bus routes to the next level in this game. Cheats and shortcuts involving the tube are few and far between.

It's only once you are on wheels you realise how few tube stations have what Transport For London refer to as "Step Free Access". Which basically means they have managed to install some lifts.

Now, carrying your pram down a few steps is a pain, but it can be done.

However, the prospect of getting onto a steep escalator that seems to descend forever into the bowels of hell is terrifying just to consider, let along put into practice.

On a recent day trip I made it to my destination having balanced the pram at an angle in front of me as I teetered up an escalator. It was only when I reached the top, my heart in my mouth, it dawned on me that to go home I was going to have to go back down.

I spent the entire day feeling sick as I envisioned myself and my daughter lying smashed at the bottom underneath a tangled mass of straps and bent metal.

When it finally came to my return I approached the man attending the barriers and tears pricked my eyes as I appealed to him for help.

Now I have read about, and even experienced firsthand, my share of stony-faced, unhelpful TfL staff. But fortunately here was a rare exception.

The kind and generous gentleman explained that Health and Safety forbid him from handling a buggy with a baby in it, but if I carried my daughter he would take the pram. And he stood in front of us on the perilous escalator so I felt less doomed to tumble into the depths.

We won't be going on escalators again.

But when it comes to a daily round of wheeling the short journey home from the shop with a coffee in one hand, juggling the key and pushing the door open with my hip as we swivel inside, I believe I currently hold the top score.

Pink Pear Bear


  1. I remember trying to navigate the tube with a folded up buggy and a babe in arms once. I arrived sweaty, tearful, shaky and very miserable! I then switched to the sling on our rare ventures into London. The thought of standing on those escalators with a buggy in tow is petrifying, I'm so glad you managed to get a nice person to help you. Now I just have to keep track of two on foot, which can be equally scary and involve the same sort of visions of smushed up people at the bottom! Thanks so much for linking up with us again. #bigpinklink

    1. We loved the sling, until we had a terrifying fall (see earlier blog post Burden Of Guilt). I can only imagine the worry that is to come once she gets mobile. My mum used to use reins for me and my brothers and sisters. Good luck with keeping yours in tow and thanks again for inviting me to the #bigpinklink