Monday, 26 March 2007

Not going

Well, we're not going to the art workshop then. Although I've pleaded with the organiser, I've clearly cut no ice. There are no spaces, probably. That's probably just an excuse. The real reason is that, like dragons, there be triplets here. Triplets take up too much room and too many places. Triplets are odd. They are an eyesore. We are all strange. Nobody wants us. We are unloved. I'm going downhill fast and the only destiny I can see is to drink heavily and die in loneliness.

And I'm not going to forget how it started. When the children were born, or rather wrenched from Grit's old body which was then pushed on a trolley into the Recovery Room where it promptly succumbed to shock and didn't recover for six weeks, one of the nurses cheerily sang out 'That's it now! You won't be going anywhere with these three!'

At that point I made a resolution. I would go anywhere with these three. I got so many bees in my bonnet about it that even the bees had bonnets with bees. I was a campaigner for triplet rights. 'No child shall be denied access to anywhere' I would start off, then with a dramatic pause and a deep inbreath, 'Because she has a sister!'

The first battle was the library. Now who's in charge there? The children's section is on the first floor and the lift to all those lovely children's books is a service lift, secreted away in a dark corner. It doesn't like buggies. Buggies are too big. There is a big commanding notice to leave the buggies downstairs. This is because of the buggy wars that start when irritated mothers and screaming toddlers are elbowing each other to have a go at the lift which will cram in your big buggy but only maybe if you strap Joshua in and tilt everything to the left by 40 degrees. I think the staff probably mopped their brows with relief when it was discovered by accident that the service lift could accommodate one standard wheelchair, but no fingers on the wheels. A shopping bag dangling from the back or the side and you were out and up the stairs, matey. But a triplet buggy? No way.

So I determined as part of my campaign that we had a right to baby storytime at the library and we were bloody well going. First stop, the lift door, and a minor public demonstration. Second stop, the desk and a loud demand for help which was met, as expected, with the old lemon sucker drawing in her lips before telling me tartly that she couldn't possibly leave her rubber date-stamp and I'd have to find someone else. On that occasion I did find someone prepared to carry Shark, a bit uncomfortably at arm's length, but it got us to the first floor. Then I found I had to make a big fuss about floor cushions. Apparently the library staff keep them locked in a cupboard because the children play with the zips and that's probably a heath and safety hazard so Mrs-Make-A-Stink just leave your ruddy babies rolling about on the concrete floor. Preferably near the stairs.

But campaign on cushions aside, I felt the point about the lift was made. Nearly. After the first week, I carried two babies in car seats and one in a sling and used the stairs, loudly, on principle. On the way up I shouted to the desk staff below about how I couldn't fit in the lift. I got in everyone's way on the stairs thanks to the wide berth with a car seat in each hand, so that was a bonus.

For the next couple of years the feeling that we were a nuisance didn't really stop. The staff at the local Tesco staring at me pushing both a trolley and triplet buggy when they could have so easily helped; the bloke in the car park who pipped his horn angrily because it was taking me an age to vacate the parking space; the scowling woman who pushed us out the way, tutting loudly, on our first outing; the constant battle with doors and steps; the National Trust custodian sending us out; the shopkeeper who shouted 'Can't you leave it outside?'; the museum staff who said 'You're not bringing that in here'.

But those days are mostly behind us. Either we're no longer a nuisance, or we still are, and I don't care. Occasionally I'm reminded of our messy, sprawling status as we occupy too much space, too many places, with not enough toilets and lifts that are too small. And so it is with the art workshop. Three places in one go. That's an awful lot of places to give away to a messy family who would probably make a nuisance of themselves and look an eyesore anyway, what with the home-cut hair and the state of the mother.

There's another art workshop in a month's time. I might email the organiser and ask for three spaces; I'll start off, 'No child shall be denied access to anywhere because she has a sister!'

I might get an email back. And if she tells me to shove off I'll go into full campaign mode and get the buggy out.

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