Well, not really a whinge, to be honest.
More a lament (wow, that sounds Biblical...)
And, an attitude of gratitude for what I have, where I live, and the bubble I get to inhabit.
I took 1st and 2ndSister to London for the day on the train on Saturday, to see the amazing Matilda the Musical. The girls were scarily well behaved, especially as one was fighting off an illness, and a good time was had by all. Yet, yet...
The day was MARRED by other people!
Not by the delightful hospitality representative at the Cambridge Theatre, who greeted us at 2pm, who were by this time breathless from navigating and negotiating our way through the busiest and most ignorant crowds I've know, seated us in our VIP area and provided us with drinks, sweets and programmes. Not by the guy who wrapped up the small souvenirs the girls chose in separate bags. Not by the friendly northern people on the overground train, or the one solitary person on the tube who was sympathetic and chatty.
NO, THE DAY WAS MARRED BY EVERY SINGLE OTHER PERSON IN THE CAPITAL WHO JUST HAD BLINKERS ON AND WAS OBLIVIOUS TO A PREGNANT WOMAN AND TWO CHILDREN STRUGGLING AMONGST THE CROWDS!!!!
I know, I know, it's London in the run-up to Christmas and I should have expected it. Standing-room-only on the Underground, and people who clearly aren't pregnant (or even awake) in the priority seats for pregnant women, happens all year round. It used to disconcert me when I visited London in my youth/before kids, but it was still an adventure. Now, 1stSister, a talented artist who, you never know, one day might aspire to art college in the capital, is NEVER GOING BACK. "It's freaky."
It was freaky, compared to our relatively sheltered existence in a small town. But she's been to London before, and it was fine. Same with Paris. And Newcastle upon Tyne. (And Hull.) It just wasn't manic, like on Saturday. SO MUCH HUSTLE AND BUSTLE! Virtually impossible to keep 2 girls aged 8 and 6 by my side, AND protect my clearly visible bump. I forgot how much time it takes to get from train to Underground, from Underground to street, from street to theatre. How you have to jostle into a lift. How when it gets ridiculously busy, you're exhausted at the end of the day and just want to get to some hot food and the train home, and they stagger the number of people into the tube station, it brings out the mother hen/wolf instinct in a person....
....I pushed in, in the end. I got called on it, fair enough. And I probably gave a terrible impression of a pregnant mother with children. But safety was at stake. And, as I told the complainant (an older woman, as it happened), I knew I would have to stand on a crowded tube train, so there was no way I was going to stand in heaving crowd, pregnant and with two young girls. But I also told her, as she'd complained passive-aggressively (in a "who does she think she is?" way to those around her, which my 8 year old was astonished at and found rude), that if she had a problem with my behaviour, she should address me, rather than make snide comments to other people. Yes, I know there's a queue. No, I don't want to faint or cause danger to my unborn child and existing children. Badly behaved all round, perhaps, on my part, according to London etiquette....
....but I found everyone else's behaviour appalling, quite frankly. Yes, we're all in rush! Yes, we all have a destination, an issue, a problem, a hunger, a tiredness, an illness, whatever - but does that entitle us to be rude and bump and brush past each other, almost denying that other people exist, that other humans are worth our time and energy and attention?! Perhaps I was locked in a slow-down-it's-Advent bubble (and de-mob happy to be out without 2 year old 3rdSister to see some musical theatre), but the city of London was crazy-busy and those who were out there largely had no regard for anyone but themselves.
I like to think that the lovely, comfortable, comforting people were tucked up at home doing the sensible thing, and that there were a large number of tourists hustling and bustling through Covent Garden and King's Cross as well as locals out for the day. And I think I was misguided that I could just take a day trip to the capital in December and expect it to be straightforward, and I probably wouldn't do it again. But why do families and pregnant women have to be frightened off a beautiful, historic and wonderful city just because the majority of people are rushing through at a crazy pace, oblivious to the needs of others? We have a right to enjoy ourselves, and travel without feeling like we're in danger.
While I'm at it, it wasn't of course just the other people in London who burst my bubble - as soon as we got on the train, I discovered someone in our pre-booked seats (with table, and at least one seat travelling forward to prevent sickness), and said I was sorry, but they were our seats and could she move. "Are we in FIRST CLASS?" she thundered. "No, but we've booked these seats." Disgruntled, she barged off. HONESTLY, people, there's just no need for it, whatever your religion, or lack of it.
In closing, can I just say that Matilda the Musical was AMAZING (it just won another clutch of awards today), continues in London into the new year and opens on Broadway in 2013, so if anyone in the States who reads my blog finds NYC easy to navigate, take any children you have aged 6+. Me, I'm holing up until 4thSister is born in the spring, only venturing out to see perhaps my favouritest musical EVER, Les Miserables - at the local cinema down the road.