Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Double Take

This is what my eyes did a moment ago. Taking my morning stroll around Blogland before getting down to the serious problem of 'Now, how to amuse them today?' as Christopher Robin once said, what did I see but a blog whose title was so nearly the subject I had used for a poem, that I thought 'How come they have one of the poems I've not posted?'

It was a very peculiar experience; the phrase is quite common, admittedly, and one harassed parents world wide have had to contend with these many years past.

'Are we nearly there yet?'

Get the picture? Small child crammed into a car seat, wriggling against the restraining harness after only ten minutes of being strapped in... In my own case, I have to admit, this was something I never had to contend with, simply because I never learned to drive. My small children, when we went for a wander, either walked or if it was an all day 'expotition' ( back to Christopher Robin) enjoyed the bus or train ride that entailed.

Of course, when No.1 arrived on the scene, it was relatively simple to manoeuvre a large pram-cum-pushchair into the luggage van on the train, and subsequently remove small daughter until destination was reached. But fast forward three years to when N0.1 son had joined the equation, and things became a mite trickier. Do you help toddler onto the train, leaving pram and baby adrift on the platform, or conversely, leave toddler adrift on platform whist manhandling pram up into the train? Either way, there was the knowledge lurking in the back of my mind, it only takes a second or two for a person intent on baby snatching to whisk either child away.

Happily, I can report no such catastrophe occurred, but there were one or two scary moments.

One day in 1968 when No.1 daughter was still sole offspring, we got to our tiny local railway station, well, Halt it was called and Halt it was, and waited hopefully for a train. Not all trains stopped there, and it was simply a single platform on either side of track, with an extremely basic shelter open to the elements. Eventually, in its own good time, up lumbered the train.

Now, the Chariot, as I christened the pram/pushchair , was quite easy to put into a carriage, as opposed to the luggage van, as long as there were no passengers already seated. In my haste to get aboard, I failed to realise the far side of the carriage had a corridor running along its length, and the access doors into and out of said corridor were not in alignment.

Therefore, about sixteen minutes later, having arrived at the Town Station, imagine my horror when I saw the train had pulled in alongside a platform on the corridor side of the train.
Lucky, the train was terminating at the Town, whereas some continued to the Harbour Station a few minutes further down the line.

I valiantly tried to angle the pram around in the tight doorway, but managed to get it completely wedged. It was designed to collapse down for 'easy' transportation, but it was a bit of a juggernaut, and I always put off that evil hour for as long as possible. Getting hotter by the minute, I struggled to get it free, to no avail. Then I heard one of the Railway Guards walking down the corridor, reminding passengers in a loud voice 'This train terminates here. Please make sure you collect all your luggage before leaving the train'. Salvation was at hand!

He deserved a medal for the patient way he followed instructions on how to collapse the Chariot, while I gratefully grasped baby and blankets in my arms. Just to complete the picture, I must explain there was also a removable wire 'shelf' between the wheels of the Chariot, held in place by a couple of those stretchy hook thingies cyclists often use to clamp goods to their bikes. So you do the maths. Four hands to cope with Baby, Blankets, Chariot, Shelf and Two Springy Things.
Add a couple of train doors to this mix, and you can see, it must have presented quite a spectacle before we got everything sorted!

The second occasion imprinted on my mind was when one child - and I'm ashamed to say I no longer remember which of the two it was - got left behind on either the platform or pavement (senior moment is obviously in charge - was it a bus day or a train day?) while the other child and I peered through the window of the moving vehicle, wildly gesticulating and miming 'Stay there! We'll come right back!'

I've just 'phoned son, but he has no recollection of the incident, which makes me fairly sure it was small daughter who got stranded at a bus stop, but I can't check as she's busy teaching at this time of day.
I can only applaud the common sense of her, or him if that was the case, for waiting as instructed and not getting hysterical at such an awful goof!

Now back to the phrase that started this meandering, and the poem it inspired after I watched a TV drama which featured the same subject and its dire consequences.


"Are we nearly there, Mum
are we nearly there"?'

Children's voices whine.
Tense hands grip steering wheel
as distracted mother attempts
to negotiate rush hour traffic.

"Soon" her short answer
bites. She flicks her hair,
glances at her reflection,
doesn't see the lorry turn.

Freeze-framed silence numbs,
before breaks screech,
metals grind. Over the cacophony
a ghostly echo reverberates.

"Are we nearly there, Mum,
are we nearly there?"


  1. Gosh, and I think I've got problems with a push-chair!
    Dot, @

  2. Glad to have been of inspiration!

    Your tale of leaving a child on the platform/at the bus stop made me laugh. That has always been my greatest fear.

    I have had an experience on an escalator where I set of leaving the 2 year old at the top. Luckily I was back up the other way before he got hysterical.

  3. What a mighty struggle just to begin to go somewhere!

  4. Reminds me of the time I had 10-mo, 2 and 3-y.o. in tow. Juggling the baby and luggage in front of an elevator, the two who could walk jumped aboard and the doors slammed shut. Hysterical, I screamed loud enough to wake the dead, "Don't get off. Stay in the elevator!" All ended well, but it was a heart-racing moment. :)

  5. Similar thing happened to me once. I got on a subway train in Boston, but my mother somehow got left behind. I was perhaps 7 years old. Luckily, we both thought the same thing. I got off at the next station and waited for her to show up, which she did. Scary for a bit, though (and I'm sure even more so for her!)

  6. You do paint pictures with words. I could see it all happening before me :-)
    Your poem however, :-O

  7. Bless your heart! I can only imagine how you felt to see one of your children left behind.

  8. I was left a gas station once...not fun...

  9. There's a town called Orange here in Oz. We drove there when our little boy was about three or four and it was a VERY long way. Every time we passed an orange grove he'd shout out 'We're at Orange!' Until it became quite a joke.

  10. Well folks, I'd no idea this would stir up so many 'left behind' stories! Commiserations to all!


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