Steppin’ Out

Spending quality time in the pub used to be a complicated affair. When the boy was a few months old you could only undertake the short trip to the (very) local, local when he was asleep. The instant his little eyes start to roll in their sockets we were halfway out the door but first he needed strapping into his pram.

The kid is secured into position by a three-point harness, two straps either side of his waist clipping onto a third that rides up between his legs. Placing a sleeping child into a pram without being busted is one thing, trying to surreptitiously drag the third belt between his podgy and usually entwined little legs, and then clip-on the two adjacent straps (which by now have disappeared behind his neck/back/arse) is like trying to diffuse a screaming bomb.

Assuming you’ve made it out of the door and into the boozer you need to work fast. First you have to run the gauntlet of cooing locals and find seating that will accommodate two adults and a pram away from other, possibly less hygienic, punters. The location of the pram is particularly important; it needs to be clear of gangways and you have to be able to see the contents of it without the contents seeing you and kicking off. This is best dealt with by clipping a muslin over the hood and leaving a viewing-crack at one side. It also doubles as a rudimentary ‘germ’ screen, which acts as additional protection from the aforementioned LHP’s.

All that done, drinks in, and you’d an hour, if lucky, before the kid kicked off. The first pint would slip down easy but the second was more fraught, on occasion you’ll have to down it quick-smart and leave in a fug of howling infant. Even if this didn’t happen the pressure of it happening was ever-present. It was just the same at home when it came to food, though it’s one thing to find oneself cramming a hastily-concocted pile of veg and wotnot into your face at your own dining table and another entirely to be sat in an eatery, in public, next to a hair-trigger.

We had our first meal out with the little fella when he was three months old. Getting him to sleep in the pram before we arrived was nail biting stuff. Once seated we were impatient to order, the sheer pressure to eat all of my crispy fried-noodles before he woke was something I’d never actually considered, despite having a watered down experience of it in the local and to a lesser degree, home.

Even now its very difficult to eat out. It’s not just a question of manhandling a pram into a restaurant and riding the largely hostile vibes from the other diners -I mean, who wants a pram parked next to you when you’re trying to eat? I don’t for a start- it’s the ongoing aspect of getting in and out the place before he starts screaming the place down. Not only is the pleasure of eating ones carefully selected dish offset by the potential of it being ruined by a baby, one finds oneself getting overly anxious waiting for food to arrive and then the bill, even for the better half to come back from the loo.

Whilst eating out may be a bit tricky he’s much better at dealing with being out and sleeping through noise than ever before, this means that extended visits to pubs/bars are less fraught. At the end of the summer he attended a wedding in Soho and survived the lively reception until 1.30am, even sleeping on the night bus home. A few weeks ago he almost repeated this sterling feat at a wedding reception not physically dissimilar to the previous venue (though I don’t believe the Groucho Club is a sex club during the week) but much to our regret we were forced to leave at 11pm because he had a cold and wasn’t really up for socialising.

Of course, one has to be particularly careful that one doesn’t go too crazy during these cheery, convivial events. One has to be responsible, one is in charge of a tiny, helpless infant… Though I’d imagine ‘responsible’ was the last thing on the minds of the people stood outside the pub the other evening.

It was the missus’ birthday so we arranged to meet friends at 3pm, intending to leave at 8pm in time for his Lordship to have his tea. At the appropriate hour I decided that I’d take charge of the boy and leave the missus to enjoy the evening unencumbered by a small child. Now, despite being in the pub for a while and having enjoyed a few beers, I most certainly wasn’t pissed (and even if I had been the following still would’ve been forgivable).

There are two steep steps leading to the door of the pub; the rise on the initial is about a foot high, the tread just about broad enough to bear a pram, with the second step slightly shorter than the first. To gain access inside you need to tip the pram back, place the front two wheels onto the tread, pick up the back of the pram so all four wheels are level, before pushing the whole unit against the rise of step two, and repeating the process to the bar. Reversing the process isn’t as straightforward, it takes two people to physically pick-up the whole pram and carry it down.

So, good evening etc., and its time to go, the boy is now crying with gusto so we elect to strap him into his pram properly outside the pub. The priority was to get him out the immediate vicinity asap and start moving homewards in the hope he’d sleep en route. The better half offered to help me take the pram down the stairs. Of course I agreed, so I took the front and she was in charge of the rear. We negotiated the smaller step (down from the pub door) without incident, from the second step I dropped down the foot-high rise to ground level, assuming the better half would lower her end accordingly. But she didn’t.

The baby-related gear usually packed into the space under the pram slowly spilled out onto the pavement, and on top of that, still cocooned in his blanket, a small baby. Mercifully he’d not flopped out face-forward, instead he’d slid down the side of the pram and out the end, but it still wasn’t good. The people smoking outside were looking at me as if I was the devil, eyes full of barely concealed hatred at the sight of a pissed-up* hooligan scraping a baby off the pavement whilst castigating his wife for lacking psychic powers.

The kid was hastily stuffed into the pram, still howling the place down, and whisked off home. By the time I’d arrived back he was fast asleep and, in case the social services are reading this, only a bit smashed-up. Now let’s just draw a line under the whole thing and move on, please.

*I wasn’t pissed