Friday, 28 October 2011

Making a U-Turn

I haven't owned a car in over five years. It's been very liberating not to be burdened with a monthly car payment or insurance premiums or have the added expense of petrol, which certainly isn't cheap. I haven't had to worry about yearly inspections or unexpected maintenance costs. In many ways, I've enjoyed not having a car. But...

... it's time to put our idealistic views aside and be a bit more realistic. The fact is that, with two children, it's just much more practical to have a car, especially where we live in North London. Not everywhere is easily accessible by public transport, and places that are usually require one or two changes and a minimum of an hour's journey time. It's hard enough struggling with one child (and buggy and other gear) on a bus, but it's manageable. I cannot, however, imagine struggling with a toddler, a baby in a buggy, and any shopping I might have. Even with The Other Half's help. And as lovely as my friends have been about giving Crumpet and me lifts to play dates and parties over the past three years, I can't expect to keep bumming rides forever. So we need a car. As much as The Other Half grumbles, it's a non-negotiable issue for me.

This is a time when I really wish I had learned to drive a stick shift. When I took driver's ed in North Carolina, everyone learned on automatics. I don't even think we were given the option of learning to drive a manual. Here in the UK and in mainland Europe, the opposite is true. So that means that automatic vehicles are more expensive (I can verify this by the prices we have paid for rental cars in Europe). But you know what they say about old dogs and new tricks. I've already learned to drive on the other side of the road (which still makes me a bit nervous, but perhaps because I haven't had much practice since I got my UK license in 2008); I am not about to learn to drive a manual at this stage in the game.

So I guess you could say I'm making a metaphorical U-turn on my car-free philosophy, but you know what they say about how having kids changes things. I'm hoping (or least trying to convince The Other Half) that having a car won't drastically affect our daily lives. We'll still walk to most places and he can still use his bike as his primary mode of transport. I wouldn't even think of driving into central London. But at least having a car of our own will give me back a little bit of my independence and make it easier for us when driving is just the easiest way to get from point A to point B. And if all of my arguments fail, I'll buy the car in my name and add him as a named driver so he can still say he doesn't technically own a car.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Baby on Board

I am nearly 17 weeks pregnant, and although I think it's pretty obvious by now that I have a baby on board, I have opted to wear the above badge that Transport for London makes to avoid any confusion on my daily commute to and from work. So far, it has worked, and usually someone kindly offers me their seat, which I gladly accept (especially this week, as the sciatica I experienced with my first pregnancy has come back with a vengeance).

However, I still find it amazing how possessive some people are when it comes to seats on the train. Even with the badge, I'm a bit uncomfortable asking people outright for a seat (maybe when I'm seven or eight months pregnant it will be a different story), but I do make an obvious show of moving right inside the carriage and, when possible, making eye contact with people. For the most part, it works, but earlier this week a woman looked right at me, then at my badge, then back at me, and then lowered her head and closed her eyes as if to pretend she was asleep. I sighed audibly and rolled my eyes, at which point the woman next to her offered me her seat, but I felt sort of guilty accepting it. Then this evening a woman offered me her seat, apologizing profusely for not noticing me earlier (she noticed when she looked up in between stations instead of when I got on the train). I assured her it was fine and that I appreciated it. The man standing next to her said, "It's a shame it has to be you to offer a seat" and then gave a disapproving look to the man next to me, who hadn't even budged from his seat. A pregnant colleague of mine, who is just a few weeks further along than me, asked a man last week if she could sit down (proudly displaying her badge at the time). He reluctantly got up and then said, "So much for equality of the sexes."

I can understand being reluctant to give up your seat for someone who "looks" pregnant because there have been situations where passengers have made embarrassing mistakes in that regard. It can be a bit like asking someone "When are you due?", only to be told "I'm not pregnant, thank you." A male colleague of mine, on hearing me refer to my pregnancy recently, congratulated me and then apologized for not saying anything earlier because he had always thought it best to wait until two weeks after the baby was born to offer congratulations to avoid awkward assumptions. But this badge eliminates any doubt, so as far as I'm concerned, common courtesy is to relinquish your seat without too much fuss.

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

And Baby Makes Four!

I have been incredibly neglectful of the blog lately (what's new?). But it's not as if I don't have good reasons (as usual). Let's see... in the past two months, we've been up to quite a lot, including:
  1. We were involved in a family wedding, which allowed us a mini-holiday in the leafy South London suburb of Kew.
  2. Birthday party season has consumed most of our recent weekends. (Think EIGHT toddler birthday parties within about a month, including Crumpet's).
  3. I have begun a new promoted post of responsibility at work and, as part of my new duties, led an eventful Outward Bound trip of 46 15-year-olds to Wales. Luckily, we all came home with only minor (metaphorical) cuts and bruises.
  4. I celebrated five years of wedded bliss with The Other Half, Crumpet's third birthday, and five years since my arrival in the UK (not necessarily in that order).
  5. Oh, and I also got pregnant... Crumpet 2 is due in early April! (And, please, someone suggest a good nickname, perhaps in keeping with the baked goods theme. Tart seems highly inappropriate, and Scone just doesn't sound right. Beyond that, I'm at a bit of a loss.) More news on our growing family (and my growing waistline) to follow.