Urban Fathers' Liberation Front

Confused dads working out the city

Toddle in the City

on May 23, 2013

This blog was first published at http://www.toddleinthecity.co.uk/blog/ on May 23, 2013.

Once you live in London, it’s hard not to be drawn in by the many things that make it one of the planet’s greatest cities.  Clearly, there are spectacular sites and places to visit, largely in the centre of things- Zone 1 – the focus for tourists and visitors, commuters and those seeking entertainment.

In truth, London – once you really get to move around in it – is fascinating across the urban area it covers from Uxbridge to Bromley, from Kingston to Enfield.  My passion for the last two years has been capturing the details of London’s communities in the form of accidental and unusual letters hidden in buildings, streets, street art and the like.  It’s a unique way of bringing out of the background the things that makes communities and places distinctive, that gives places their character and their heart.  People like the way it makes them see the capital, and I enjoy allowing them to see it differently.  I find it easy to do this with a background in town planning and architecture, but others find it harder. It’s exploratory photography – random and spontaneous; an adult toddle.

Much of my travelling around the city in those two years has been with my daughter, now four.  Working part time, I was able to take her out all over the city, showing her the breadth and depth of places such as Stratford, Silvertown, Brixton and Richmond.  She has been a joy to be with, and although she’s had to be pushed around in a pushchair a lot, we managed the steps and the crowds scattered across the transport network with humour when we could.  Most of the time, movement has been relatively easy, and the Overground in particular opens the city out a little more to those less mobile. Be wary of parents with one kid who say they can’t get out any more – they’re not trying hard enough.

However, with the arrival of a second child a year ago, I struggle with the fact that I’m much more hampered in getting around simply by having a second child.  I feel guilty that, not only does my youngest not get to see the city, but the first is also disadvantaged for the same reason.

One of the reasons is economics; working part time with two children in bleak economic times is not the best time to be taking children to all corners of the conurbation.

But one of my frustrations with London is the sheer difficulty of getting around (without a car) with more than one child.  Look carefully, and you’ll often notice that it’s parents with one child that are out and about.  Parents with two or more will find the steps on the underground too much, the crowds on the trains too daunting and buses awkward to negotiate weighed down by nursing bags, pushchairs and other paraphernalia.  A personal frustration for me is the unwillingness of passengers on the tube to vacate spaces designed for pushchairs and wheelchairs, and even marked as a pushchair and wheelchair priority space, often making journeys tense and uncomfortable.

Having said that, my relationship with my kids in London is good, and the positive xperiences of living and breathing the wide expanses of the city far outweigh the niggling negatives.  We love to travel around, we love days out and we love exploring. Both kids have done a Toddle, and both will do more, because the idea of mixing with new kids of different ages in new environments, looking around them, asking and answering questions with a camera is just a brilliant idea.

I hope that as a built environment professional with a couple of kids keen to travel about the place I can offer some interesting perspectives as I blog here on the Toddle site.  See you soon!

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