I’ve tried to talk a lot on this blog about the experience of being a father in London, and I appreciate that at times the content may have strayed excessively from this original premise. Part of this has been brought about by the need to balance a number of interests in my life, and each of them having some bearing on my general annoyance, to the point where the blog has provided a useful place to pour out some frustrations. The other reason has been the arrival of child number 2 – now over 15 months ago – which has changed my habits in respect of being a father, primarily in feeling less able to explore the city with two, rather than just the one.
I did have the opportunity to get into the centre of London this week, however. My wife had to work on Monday, meaning I was thrust into child caring duties for the day (as well as Friday – two days of joy for me this week!). On Mondays though, our daughter goes to pre-school, and after dropping her off, I was left with just my son to look after, and I took the opportunity to take the train into Oxford Street.
I can’t really remember having a day together with him, on our own, with the city stretched out before us, whereas I can remember many days with my daughter. It was good to get him out of his pushchair on the train, to sit him on my knee and to point at the things we passed. It was also interesting to see that he was so different from my daughter – not watching the world go by outside, but more interested in what was going on inside the train.
In the centre of town, I had a couple of things to do, and we spent some time in Carnaby Street and in Soho. We lunched at Pizza Hut (where the all day buffet is by far the best value meal in town, particularly if you can blag a little free pasta for your young son who, ‘really doesn’t eat much’) and headed off into Seven Dials and back to Holborn for the train ride home.
I’m used to the trails and tribulations of having a baby and buggy with me for the duration and was prepared for the stairs in the underground, the time consuming effort in finding the lift to upper floors in unfamiliar places and the shortcomings of badly stocked parent rooms. However, I don’t think I’ve ever had to leave a shop because I couldn’t actually get in.
I was after some stationery on my trip out, and knew about Ryman on Long Acre. I thought I’d pop in on the way back to Holborn. The shop is quite tight, but I was unprepared for the shelf units virtually blocking the door and the stock, particularly on the lowest shelf, overlapping it’s limits so contributing to the obstruction. There were three shelves in the middle of the floor in the entrance, and their presence made negotiating down the side and into the shop impossible. With the clutter of new stock and the presence of other customers, it was clear to see that the shop was not going to welcome me and my boy in his buggy.
It was a huge disappointment to have to leave, not only because it meant I’d have to find somewhere else to buy what I wanted, but also because I know that Ryman is owned by one of the ‘Dragons’, Theo Paphitis, who always appears so open, warm and accommodating of people, and is something of an inspiration in my own business. It’s frustrating to know that, with all the other barriers to moving young children around the city, shop managers feel fit to add another – the insensitive internal layout of their shops – to the trials of that process.