Thorn in my side

by Julie Alpine-Crabtree

So I may not have mentioned it but I’m an expert at avoiding broken glass on the pavement. I can hold a conversation, dole out zoo biscuits, give good text message and direct lost people to Moorfields Eye Hospital (“just follow the green line!”) all while avoiding even the smallest shard of danger. I like the ride pneumatic tyres provide, but the thought of having to do buggy maintenance has always made me feel slightly queasy. It was the same when I used to drive. The idea of being stuck, helpless, horrified me, feminist that I am. It wasn’t that as a woman I was incapable of learning the basics: how to change a wheel, check the oil, remember the right kind of fuel to put in. Just that I could never be bothered.

Anyway, I can spot a broken wine bottle at 50 metres, the glint of a cheap Smirnoff rip-off at 30. I can see the ground-up beer-bottle glass well before I’ve swerved to avoid the corresponding pile of puke.

(A funny story about puke… Last week on our way home from Waitrose I pointed out a group of pigeons happily pecking away in a tight circle. As we got closer, I was able to report to my toddler, in all innocence, that they were eating a big pile of rice that someone had given them. “That’s funny,” he said. “Pigeons usually eat bread.” And, yes, it was funny, because, of course, it was vomit, steaming in the cold air. Ah, the city in winter.)

Well, today I got a puncture. A first. On the last day before we fly home (to my parents’ house) for the holidays. A day on which I had 310 things planned to do, a tight, military schedule in place. I heard a rhythmic, clicking sound, bent to brush off what I was sure would be a sharp piece of grit on the tyre. Except it was a small twig. Which, when I tugged it, turned out to be attached to a huge, hooked thorn. My mistake was to remove the thorn from the tyre. Air started whooshing out. I stuck the thorn back in again but too late. The back right of the buggy sunk. The buggy board was unusable. My toddler was distraught, baby bewildered.

Through a combination of black cabs, sheer grit, and the kind of supernatural strength people find in the event of having to rescue a loved one who’s trapped underneath a burning car, I made it through the day intact, buggy safe in the store room at nursery, awaiting a trip to the bike shop for repair.

But a twig? A thorn? On City Road? I didn’t see it coming. That was the biggest surprise, really. That in the end our enemy was organic.

The moral of the story? I am not going to be so careful around glass in 2012. I am going to stop assuming that it is possible to anticipate disaster, prevent it in advance, be all-seeing, all-knowing. I am going to look a little more often at the sky; up, not down. Because, as my chef always says, “Blue skies, endless possibilities”.

But bloody hell! When my kids outgrow the buggy, I think I’m going to become one of those crazy bleached hair, fake Ugg-wearing women who shuffle to and from the supermarket with a knackered old Maclaren in tow to carry their groceries home. Or maybe just to lean on. Because God knows how I ever got by without the extra hauling power. Bugaboo Frog? They should have called it the Bugaboo Pack Mule.

No handbag is ever going to be big enough again.