Outrageous story in the papers this summer: a woman has been given a criminal record for not swiping her Oyster card as she boarded a bus with her two-week-old baby. She reportedly offered to pay the £20 fine once she realised her mistake, but was not allowed to, and was forced to attend court, where some less-than-sympathetic magistrates found her guilty.
Do these people have any concept of what it’s like to travel on a London bus with children? I think not. Having endured several bus journeys recently with the Littleboys plus double buggy, perhaps I can helpfully inform them.
As the bus draws up, she might experience butterflies somewhere akin to an Olympic diver, standing on the top board about to perform a complicated somersault. The ‘rule’ is two pushchairs only, but this does not take into account the size and shape of buggies, and you will get some drivers that cast looks of horror at a double buggy and simply shake their heads.
Once our plucky heroine is given the green light to get on, it’s a race, with a bit of weight-lifting thrown in: heaving the buggy onto the platform (usually with no help from fellow passengers); squeezing down the narrow galley and into the space allotted for buggies (invariably running over someone’s foot, which they will have failed to move, en route), and trying to apply the buggy’s brakes before the bus sets off at a cracking pace.
That’s if you have just one child. Add to this trying to hold onto an excited toddler, who will fall over if not anchored down, and it’s starting to resemble the three day Eventing.
Once safely on board and hopefully, seated, the journey itself is relatively easy – just a matter of trying to keep everyone happy. (This is not a problem for Littleboy 1, who sits there shouting out ‘another bus, Mummy!’ every time we see one - which, thanks to the heroic efforts of poor, departed Mayor Ken Livingstone, is about every two seconds.)
Finally, we have the dismount. Our contender sits there, primed, like a sprinter waiting for the start gun. Unlike other passengers, she cannot take up her position before the bus stops (because she will career into other passengers with the pram). At the same time, a speedy descent is necessary to ensure disembarkation before the doors close.
All in all, remembering to swipe an Oyster card is the least of her worries, so my sympathies are all with this poor new mother (who was presumably sleep-deprived as well). Personally I think the magistrates in question should be forced to spend two weeks on three hours’ kip a night, armed with a double buggy and two screaming kids, and made to travel on a 35 through Brixton in the rush hour.
Or perhaps Boris Johnson should come to the woman’s rescue. After all, he has kids. I still don’t think he deserves to be Mayor of London, but if he sorted this out, even I might come to respect him.
This post was written by Nappy Valley Girl, a journalist and mother of two small boys who lives on the rather more downmarket fringes of the so-called 'Nappy Valley' area of South West London.
Photo credit: marin john