Friday, 6 July 2007

The Lives of Mothers

'Finding a writing location, free of distractions, is easier said than done.'It occurred to me the other day that the lives of writers overlap with the lives of estate agents in more ways than people imagine. Both must be skilled in the art of fiction in order to achieve the end result of a sale – one sells a script whereas the other sells some property. Dream worlds are created for their respective audiences through manipulation and ingenious use of the English language – a writer through the structure of words on a page, an estate agent through imaginative definitions of the word ‘compact’.

But perhaps the most common bond between the two is the concept of location, location, location. Just as it is important for one to buy a property in an ideal location for future resale value, it is important for one to write in the ideal location for there to be any vague hope of simply finishing one’s masterpiece in order to sell it in the first place. Like buying a house, finding an ideal writing location, free of distractions and annoying external forces, is easier said than done.

Removing one’s self from the home in order to write in an alternative location can help towards alleviating the problem of writer’s block, as a change of environment is always good for the creative juices. So I decided to go to one of my favourite cafés in central London in a vain attempt to develop an idea based on a very curious dream. I rarely have dreams worth remembering, but this one was particularly strange and involved finding myself at a Jubilee Line station called ‘The Middle of Nowhere’ where I met two middle-aged women. After waiting several hours for a train, we all agreed that if we instead walked along the main road ‘that way’ for half an hour, we’d reach El Paso. I’m not sure what El Paso was doing on the Jubilee Line, or why it appeared in my dream at all, as I have only been there once with the BBC in 1990 – but that’s another story.

My journey to the café was relatively uneventful and I even managed to find my favourite seat by the window when I got there. On this day, the place was empty and quiet – so I couldn’t hope for better conditions to concentrate on beating off the writer’s block once and for all, and settled down with my coffee and laptop ready to take the writing world by storm. Then I looked out of the window.

Every writer has their personal fears. Some have an excruciating fear of failure. Others have a fear of losing their creativity. I have a fear of mothers with newly-born offspring who launch a group invasion on the café where I am trying to work. It can be the most terrifying thing for one to witness a fleet of buggies approaching at speed under the ruthless control of a group of women, none of whom will ever stop for anything which dares cross their path. Individually, a mother with child is an innocent and harmless thing. Collectively, a group of mothers commanding a fleet of buggies is a nerve-shattering unstoppable force, like tanks rolling over the horizon of the Iraqi desert.

Such an event usually brings on one of my funny turns, and, when my head had cleared, the noisy squad had claimed their territory in the café, with strategically positioned buggies to barricade out enemy individuals who may have attempted to occupy the empty table in the corner. With Stage One complete, preparations were made for Stage Two: feeding the troops. In a single precision move, each mother synchronously exposed a breast and clamped her baby onto it. This was all executed in well under three seconds. Clearly, these mothers were a force to be reckoned with, and breast-feeding drills were obviously a huge part of their routine duties.

At this point, I recognised it was pointless me trying to do any writing, so my people-watching mode kicked in instead. I had to be careful though, as three mothers on the outer rim of the pack had obviously been trained as lookouts. I noticed they did not take part in the mass conversation about motherhood and baby clothes, but utilised their stealth tactics to move their heads from side to side, expertly scanning the immediate infiltration zone. I think breast-feeding is some kind of fuelling system for new mothers, because I noticed that the longer the babies fed, the louder and more excitable their mothers became.

The invasion lasted for pretty much most of the afternoon. A number of the mothers passed out from the group at various intervals, so the noise of the chit-chatter gradually lessened, and eventually the group dwindled from nine to only four. For the most part, the babies had been well behaved. I think they realised they were safe in the hands of such a formidable group. It was then that strange things began to happen.

Having spent several long minutes clamped to its mother’s chest, one baby was introduced to the wonders of a cheese and Marmite panini. Curious, as not only did the baby clearly not like the smell of the panini, it also did not have any teeth with which to eat it. However, orders are orders and, whether baby liked it or not, the panini would be eaten – mother would make sure of it, and she had the support of her three associates who began egging her on.

I found this behaviour to be completely inexplicable.

Next, one of the other mothers thought it would be highly amusing to attach giant clip-on strawberry earrings on her baby, which were bigger than its head. Baby clearly did not like this and began to cry. The other mothers then forced their own babies to look at the baby with the strawberry earrings, whilst commenting on how ‘cute’ she looked.

I found this behaviour to also be completely inexplicable.

Minutes later, one of the babies fell victim to the unfortunate escapades of its mother who decided to remove it from its buggy and bounce it up and down on her lap, whilst simultaneously making very odd ‘goo goo’ noises. Clearly panicked and distressed, the baby started screaming in fear, having previously been perfectly content to just sit in its buggy. This, naturally, set off a chain reaction of screaming babies who, in the space of five seconds, had gone from quiet contentment to noisy hysteria. And the screaming only became worse when their mothers decided to apply the same bouncing treatment to try and calm them down, whilst collectively making identical ‘goo goo’ noises.

Not only did I find this behaviour completely inexplicable, but largely illogical and borderline irrational.

And so the peace was finally shattered once and for all, and all hope was lost for me to finally defeat my writer’s block. I tried to make sense of what I had witnessed long and hard on my way home, and wondered whether the only solution to the writer’s block problem may involve Pink making strange ‘goo goo’ noises whilst bouncing me up and down on her knee. But then again, perhaps not.

3 comments:

insanity-suits-me (Dawn) said...

Motherhood, like any occupation will have it's novices... The experienced mother would never disturb a quiet baby. But at least your day wasn't wasted....people watching can be quite entertaining at times!

kellypea said...

Completely enjoyable. Well, except for the moment I wondered about the cheese and marmite panini. Ugh.

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