I’ve been humming and haa-ing over whether to respond to this on the blog or not as I have a feeling it could polarise and turn into an unsightly slanging match. But hey, in for a penny…
“As a fairly recent pram botherer, I lost the luxury of lazy evenings to peruse your site and enjoy the local gossip, political updates [mostly dodgy council decisions]; and most missed, cultural goings on [sleep deprivation & the going rate for a babysitter will do dreadful things to your desire to get out and about in the evenings]. Suffice to say, after 8 months at home I’m about to rejoin the working world and as I’ve recently employed a nanny as part of a nanny share arrangement, I thought I would check out your site for local recommendations for activities for her and the two children.
I was disappointed not to find any section dealing with recommendations from local mums for things to do and places to avoid, but mostly I was pretty disappointed to be dismissed as a “pram botherer” clogging up the local cafes with the selfish positioning of my pram, presumably causation of lengthy queues for the disabled loo’s and general noise pollution. It’s typical of the English attitude which bizarrely seems to detest children.Thankfully most local cafes are staffed by obliging and welcoming continentals who are quite happy to advise if we are inadvertently being an inconvenience.
I have to admit being from a large family I am more immune than most to the noisy protestations of the munchkin population but by and large I find that most locals and definitely all tourists and local proprietors are happy to share their space with Mums, Dads,offspring and their friends. I think if you surveyed most local businesses you would find that they depend on such passing trade during their dead periods to survive. We tend not to hang about in the cafe/bars in the early evenings [worse luck] and we’re generally on the road, hanging out for a strong coffee and some adult conversation by 9.30 when most locals are either at work in the City or just arriving at their place of work with a break later in the morning. If we overstay our welcome it’s generally due to difficulty in predicting exactly what’s next with a vomiting/hungry/cold/bored/ midget Greenwichian. Pram positioning is generally to avoid the screams of a “where is Mum” midget rather than maximising passing space [within reason obv.] Apologies for any vertically challenged locals if the use of midget to describe my short and very vocal offspring offends.
Unlike most “pram botherers” I am not of the “it’s the best thing that ever happened to me’ variety but I have to say that after 5 yrs in the Borough, living here for the past 8 months on Maternity leave has given me a new perspective, appreciation and love of the area. I’ve criss-crossed the park daily, haunted the museum (not just for Paul), explored the smaller local green spaces and kiddy services [mostly under threat of closure due to funding], and frankly spent most of the winter clogging up the cafe’s drinking coffee, and breastfeeding somewhere with central heating and decent coffee for which I will make no apology.
Anyway – back to the coalface. It would be amazingly useful and informative if you had a section for local kiddies goings on, especially as so many places and local jobs are dependent on local government funding. From April, the guys can start to take more significant paternity leave too which will add an interesting dynamic I expect.
As ever, I enjoy your site and postings. Just would appreciate not being blacklisted for choosing to add to the local population and not immediately relocate to somewhere more welcoming.”
The Phantom replies:
I’m pretty sure I never used a phrase as inelegant as ‘pram botherer,’ but I have to confess that as a non-child-owner, I do tend to head for places that don’t have large concentrations of prams and pushchairs, if only because it can be quite intimidating for someone on their own to be surrounded by a sea of buggies (if you want to know what I mean, try Paul of a weekday afternoon). I have been in places where I am the only character in the shop without a small person and, whether true or not, my paranoia convinced me everyone was looking at me as though the lone weirdo in the corner was eyeing up their child for potential grooming later.
Yes, I do prefer somewhere where it’s a bit quieter, surely that’s not such a terrible thing to ask for. You yourself say your youngster is ‘very vocal.’ But I don’t expect every venue to be Phantom-friendly (just one or two will do me, and, frankly, that’s all there is) and realise that, especially during the day, you’re right, Barbara – even with the rise of flexi-time, the majority of custom for most cafes during the day will be parental, much, I’m sure, as it has ever been.
I think of seeking out quiet places as being my choice – just as its the choice of parents to enjoy a coffee where they want to be, and it’s totally understandable that they would want to be with other parents. Personally I have no problem with the odd pushchair or pram in a place, one or two children can brighten up a place; for me the issues arise when there’s a whole army of them – and some of those buggies these days – well you can buy cars smaller, I’ll swear.
Greenwich is a fantastic place for children – there’s loads to do, loads of places to play and it’s a generally safe area.When I first started the blog I did consider adding a ‘things to do for kids’ tab at the top, alongside the Parish News/bookshelf/weddings etc, even though it really isn’t my area. And if Phantomising was my job, it would definitely be there. But the sheer amount of time something like that takes (you may have noticed that not a single one of those tabs at the top is complete) is frankly prohibitive. It’s not just typing in the info, it’s finding out about the stuff, and borrowing a kid to check places out (which yes, I have been known to do – singing The Wheels on the Bus in the library playgroup on your own will have you carted down the local nick.)
Maybe I should do it as some kind of wiki (as I have been tempted to do with the Parish News which I’m always behind on – I truly don’t know how Ianvisits does it.) But this is a personal blog and time is (very) limited. I find myself sticking to things that I have at least a passing knowledge on rather than venturing into the true unknown.
But what do other people think? Should I do a kid’s section? Perhaps a Kid-O-Meter on cafe/restaurant reviews – with some kind of sliding scale as with Phantom-Friendly at number 1 and Child-Friendly at number 10?