Monday, May 16, 2005

For Once, London Makes My Life Easy

overcast day
brightened. Tried
to hop a bus

to playground with most favored status.
usual mood - rain threatened
missed the bus.

clouds blow away.
on the horizon
farm bus shines.

boy babbles. animal
sounds. announces his destination
to everyone. wrong bus.

farm closed just another manic
I forecast disappointment.
storm pauses. bus hurtles

us towards despair.
walking the wooded park path,
closer to the animals than if we’d gone inside

son glows. laughs. runs.
sleeps on the bus home.

NOTE: Most days, I meander through the streets of Hackney utterly convinced that the British hate children. Other days, I have made the huge faux pas of traveling beyond Hackney at an hour when the real citizens want to do something important - like slog ale at the local pub after work.

Mothers of small children should not be abroad at these times. We take up space. We move slowly. Sometimes, our children display our singular lack of parenting skills by being noisy. (Let me define “noisy” here as singing “The Wheels On the Bus” loudly, reciting the first stanza of Wm. Blake’s “Tyger, Tyger,” or sometimes - and in my case rarely - being unhappy.)

In the States, I have never seen an adult purposefully frown at a baby. Maybe they give a “neutral-oh-shit-please-don’t-cry-look.” But, never a bona fide declaration of absolute and utter disdain, disapproval, hatred. Or at least not to a happy, singing toddler who happens to be at your side. Typically, the response to the gurgling, happy, laughing baby is a smile or a wink or a tiny, shy wave. In The States, people assume, if the baby is happy, we make a community effort to maintain that state-of-being. (Otherwise, we all suffer.)

But, I have noticed something different here during the initial duration of my sentence here. The British are absolutely brilliant at planning for idiocy. They plan for those amongst my parenting ranks who are not engaged. They plan for stupid parents who sit at the playground downing beer. They plan for children who don’t listen. And their play-spaces are designed accordingly. Much of the play equipment here would have been banned in The States years ago. We sue for our own stupidity far too often. It is a joy watching a child accept the challenge of figuring our his balance, scale a hill, explore a wooded patch. Thank you Britain for this.

The British still have a level of trust in the citizenship which feels glorious. There is a farm in the middle of our neighborhood. In the States, the animals would be behind 8 foot fences. If it was closed - then -suffer Mom and Dad for failing to know the rules.

Imagine getting on a bus. Your 2 year old is so excited to go see the animals. You walk five blocks after the bus stop. Your toddler is talking about seeing the animals the entire way. Then - you get to the animals and it is closed.

Here, they do not design places to be impenetrable by litigious assholes who will let their children throw rocks at animals and then wonder why the animals bit their children. Here, they design their public spaces for respectful, kind citizens who care to see something pastoral as a restful moment from their busy, city lives. Winston didn’t even know that the farm was closed today. It is so well integrated into the overall design of the park. Even though it was closed, he thought he had been to the farm.

Thank you, London, you made my life easier for the first time today.

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