Wednesday, 14 August 2013

Electric Cinema, Notting Hill

When I was in the dizzy blooms of pregnancy, this was where I imagined I'd be going every week once the bub arrived: the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill. Huge comfortable armchairs and sofas, softly lit table lamps, delicious food - the Electric's Tuesday morning "Screaming" was going to be my home from home for the next year. It'll be great I thought. I'll get to see every new release while my softly snoring babe snoozed in my lap.

That was the plan.

The Electric Diner
Now look. I'm not saying my experience was typical. In fact, I know it wasn't typical. Because out of the 100 or so babies in that theatre, mine was the only one who screamed through the whole thing. The. Whole. Thing. I spent most the film pacing at the back trying to calm him down. At the end I had to leave to change a nappy and missed the end of the film. Yup.

I went ages ago, and this post is just appearing now because I always thought I'd go back. I didn't. But really, you should go. It's an ace place. But try to time it for when Cosmo isn't there.

And if you go, check out the attached Electric Diner before the screening (you access the cinema - right by the screen - through a very cool secret door by the toilets). We had a scrumptious breakfast and while it's not the most buggy-friendly restaurant,  the staff made us feel incredibly welcome. If we don't make it back to the cinema, we might just come back here and eat another plate of waffles...

Thursday, 8 August 2013

Pure Package

OK, maybe putting a photo of the delectable Hugh Jackman under a post entitled ‘Pure Package’ might have caused you a raised eyebrow…  but bear with me. This blog isn’t about to take a lurid turn (more’s the pity). Oh no. Mr Jackson’s noble noggin is providing a relevant, wholesome visual aid to next London tip for incompetent mothers, i.e. "Pure Package", a gourmet food delivery service.

Pure Package delivers specialist menus to a variety of clients around London (including the de-loverly Hugh Jackman) catering for a variety of diets including that of the post-natal mother. 

I’ve mentioned before I wasn’t in a great way when I came out of hospital. That’s an understatement. I only remember eating two pieces of polystyrene toast and half a plate of air-line style pasta during my three-day stay. Every time food was brought to me, I was supposed to be feeding. And due to complications, feeding took forever. And due to health and safety my uneaten food was swiftly removed after a certain length of time. No wonder I started hallucinating. 

But once home, one of the biggest factors in my recovery was the delicious food parcels that arrived in a cooler bag on the doorstep in the middle of the night. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks and fruit. Each meal nutritionally designed to meet the needs of a breastfeeding mother, and very, very  tasty. I truly believe that my recovery, both physically and mentally, was due in a large part to these food parcels. Even when I didn't feel like eating, a beautiful dish turned up on my doorstep and I forced myself to eat it. Within 24 hours I no longer had to force myself. (They even provide disposable cutlery and napkins so you don't have to do any washing up).

Pure Package, as you can imagine, is not cheap. After all, you're having all the meals prepared and delivered to your house. However, I'd say it was exceptional value. In one way that's easy for me to say as I didn't pay for it - it was paid for (a whole SIX WEEKS worth) by my wonderful twinster Elizabeth. However, I would definitely use my own dosh to use their service again - maybe not for six weeks but certainly for the first few days out of hospital. They're a great company: flexible, considerate and in my case, worth every penny. And I thank my lucky stars I live in central London where services like this can make all the difference to an incompetent mother...

Sunday, 4 August 2013

British Museum, Bloomsbury

Who doesn't love the British Museum? I visited numerous times pre-motherhood, and couldn't wait to take Cosmo - especially as my spies had informed me it had great facilities for babies...

Well, after a rather hellish bus journey, we arrived to a rather hellish museum. I'd forgotten just how popular the British Museum is. Crowded, noisy. And my attempt to garner information about the family-friendly activities from the "Information" stand didn't amount to much. All I can say is that the staff here could learn a thing or two from the V&A. No smiles and cheer here, no, far too busy for that thank you.

The British Musuem may indeed have good (not great) facilities for babies - private nursing room, nappy vending machine etc - but what's the point if you can't find them? I asked four members of staff where the nursing room before I was eventually pointed in the right direction. At the same time, I was also informed  couldn't use it as it was the wrong day - or the wrong time - couldn't really get which. Yep, that's right. Apparently, you may only nurse in private during certain hours. They did, however, permit me to take a picture of it. Whoopie. Here it is:

What is it about nursing rooms and bare walls? Will somebody put up a poster or something?

Ho-hum. So unable to use the nursing room, I was advised to visit the lower ground floor to feed Cosmo in peace and quiet. On first glance, this seemed like an ideal place, but as soon as we got comfortable, a rather stern member of staff began herding people up as a private conference was beginning. We finished up quickly.

I'm not saying the British Museum isn't baby-friendly, but for an incompetent mother it's not a great day out. On paper, it looks great. In reality I won't be back for a while.

Wednesday, 31 July 2013


Who’m I kidding? Swimming really shouldn’t feature in any blog incompetent mothers. Getting a wriggling baby dressed and changed is difficult enough in your own home - on a wet, slippery, verruca-seasoned floor while sharing a single changing mat with three other frantic mothers, it’s enough to give you another mental breakdown (I assume as an incompetent mother you’ve already had a least one…)

But for some reason I can’t recall, I was determined to take Cosmo swimming – so from four months old, that’s what I did. I’d heard good things about Waterbabies. They cost more than some but I took that to mean Cosmo was less likely to drown. No truly. That’s how my mind works.

I can’t pretend the preparation was easy. Battling tears, squeezing into ill-fitting swimsuits and trying not to have any ‘accidents’ in the water has become a regularly feature our Wednesday afternoons – and that was just me. For Cosmo it was even worse. Twice I’ve got into such a panic that I’ve taken scissors to edit his wet clothes rather than attempt to change him. His howls, before and after swimming can be heard on the west side of the Tamar when the wind is in the right direction…

Cosmo, from birth hated – and I mean HATED – water. When I took him to Cornwall for Christmas, my parents almost called Social Services after hearing Cosmo’s screams when we tried to bathe him. But curiously, from the very first lesson, Cosmo loved swimming. And loved the instructor.

So although I can’t pretend an incompetent mother will find swimming easy, I’d still say to give it a go. The only thing you might lose is your hearing… and a sock… and a swimming nappy… and a dummy… and your back-up dummy…and your sanity... etc, etc.

Friday, 24 May 2013

Tate Modern, Southbank

Sorry for the lack of posts just recently - it's mainly due to laziness but also partly due my wonderful identical twin have wonderful identical twins!! Hurray! The new family of four live close to Tower Bridge, and while I know the Southbank pretty well, I'm putting on my 'incompetent mother' hat and having a nose into what's available for incompetent mothers round their neck of the woods. First up: Tate Modern. 

I'd heard good things about Tate Modern, but I'll confess my first couple of trips as a mother were a little disappointing. As it's always so crowded, it's pretty difficult to find a quiet spot to feed a baby - and after asking numerous members of staff for the best place I was none the wiser. What a change from places like the V&A and the Natural History Museum.... However, I did find a lovely huge room on the ground floor where I was able to feed Cosmo in peace. (This was late in the day - I have a feeling it was heaving with hundreds of school children earlier in the day...)

The second disappointment was the changing facilities. Firstly, there's a single changing room on the ground floor with a single changing wall mount. On two separate visits I found it locked... and was told I had to ask for the key at the cloakroom. On my second visit, the room was open but there was a queue of exasperated mothers waiting to change their exasperated babies. (There is also a nursing chair inside, but who would feed their baby there when there's so few changing facilities?) My spies informed me there were changing facilities in the men's toilets, but none in the women's or disabled.

Ho hum. On a positive note, we did see some great art and Cosmo enjoyed this visit more than any other place he's been to. Maybe it was the big white walls or crowds of people, or maybe it was just his good mood - but he didn't stop smiling. Despite the lack of facilities, we'll definitely be returning, but not sure what we'll do when Cosmo and his little cousins all want changing at once...

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Harrods, Knightsbridge

Cosmo upset that I'm taking photos rather than feeding him
According to Harrods website, the store doesn't admit customers "wearing athletic singlets; cycling shorts; flip flops or thong sandals; with a bare midriff or bare feet; or wearing dirty or unkempt clothing". While I'm not up for a bare midriff yet (who'm I kidding? I've never been up for a bare midriff...) I'm pretty sure my vomit-stained yoga pants and hair-so-unwashed-its-matting falls into both the "dirty" and "unkempt" category, (to say nothing of Cosmo's poo-stained attire - my friend calls them 'poonami's when it reaches the neckline...)

Security, however, turned a benevolent blind eye to the dress code and instead of booting us out helpfully opened the door and pointed us the direction of the very well-hidden feeding and changing rooms on the fourth floor.  Complete with Ollie Ella nursing chair (yours for a bargain £1000) and Red Castle changing mats (a snitch at £45), these rooms really are the plushest in London, and a delightful escape from the madding crowds of Knightsbridge.  Just go into one of the two individual rooms (roomy enough for your buggy), shut the door and sink into the plushest nursing chair you'll find. For someone who hates shopping, it's very tempting just to snuggle up and fall asleep.

Infinity mirrors
Big toilet, little toilet!
The staff, as you might expect, are delightfully welcoming of children and made a huge fuss over Cosmo (who wouldn't?) and the temporary Disney Cafe situated in the children's department offers a step-free, buggy-friendly place to grab a cup of tea and a Mickey-Mouse-shaped sandwich.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Science Museum, South Kensington

Science was never my strongest subject but a visit to the Science Museum has left me inspired.  Any museum which has the tenacity to exhibit a mummified cat, ancient condoms, a rocket launcher and a 1950s tractor under the banner of "Science" deserves a visit...

Somewhat less inspiring however, is the "Family Room" situated in the basement. A thumbs up for providing a nappy vending machine, but a thumbs down for the old-school stylee decor including blocked toilet and plastic chairs. If you want a quiet, relaxed spot for feeding you won't find it here. Best head to a remote spot of the museum (such as 'Agriculture') or even better, head to the nursing room at the Natural History Museum next door.

However, if you really want privacy, ask a member of staff. They have a room available for breastfeeding or indeed praying. (I frequently do both at the same time; especially when I have a blocked duct...) These 'private rooms' are an interesting concept. The V&A offers to open up a private room for feeding, likewise Kensington Palace. While it's a lovely gesture, how many mothers would think of asking...?

Cosmo trying not to cry at the sad facilities
A blue chair and a red chair.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Gymboree, Whiteleys

Surely that's a cynical look in Cosmo's eye?
My twin sister recently made an 'observation' that I project my own feelings onto Cosmo. So, her theory goes, when I say "Cosmo's tired" what I really mean is "I'm tired". Naturally I told her "Cosmo's sick of you talking nonsense and wants a cup of tea". However, I was forced to reconsider my sister's theory when I found myself telling my partner that Cosmo was skeptical of Gymboree.

Gymboree, for the uninitiated, is a nationwide organization that offers "Sensory Baby Play classes".  Using song, movement, infant signing, puppets, fibre optics, bubbles, musical instruments, their website promises "endless amusement for the babies – and adults too"!

Hmmmm... its not that I'm a killjoy (I really am) but anything that promises "endless amusement" is bound to either leave me shuddering with revulsion, crying with embarrassment, or dying of boredom. However they offer a free trial class. And just as I can't pass up free food (I've never refused a single slop of unidentifiable airline food), I can't pass up a free class. Thus it was I found myself in a Gymboree class in Whiteley's shopping centre trying desperately not to laugh. Someone should have warned me they sing so much. Like everything: "Lets put the toys awaaaaaay! Awaaaayyyy!!!" I'm not saying the girl had a bad voice... quite the opposite. But that made it even more funny.

A glance at Cosmo told me he was of a similar frame of mind. Incy wincy Spider? Meh. Round and Round the Garden? Yaaaawn. Like mother like son. He doesn't like this kinda forced jollity either, do you Cosmo? Cosmo..? Oh dear, I turned my gaze for one second and when I look back Cosmo was looking at - no, laughing hysterically at - a hideous puppet in the form of Gymboree's mascot, Gymbo the clown. What's going on? Surely he couldn't actually be enjoying this? And is that a look of wonder at the bubbles being blown around the room? Oh dear...

And as a hideously weak-willed mother, Cosmo's little chortles had me signing up for the whole course and forking out an extra fifteen quid or so for the hideous lump of garish fabric that is Gymbo, the Clown. Lets never speak of this again.

Thursday, 7 March 2013


I once sneezed so loudly Cosmo vomited. (That's not a joke and not funny... okay, it is a little bit...) He sleeps with ear-splitting white noise, but a sudden noise somehow scares the bejeezers out of him. And I'm guessing as a baby, he's not unique - why then do so many baby change areas install ridiculously loud Xcelator-style hand-dryers? (See post on The Serpentine Bar and Kitchen...) At three million decibels, the dryers at Selfridges once again assisted in scaring the proverbial out of my darling bub.

Anyroad up. If you find yourself down the Marble Arch end of Oxford street and your baby needs a quick feed, you can do worse than heading to the third floor of Selfridges where you'll find nice comfy seats for feeding, a good baby change and toilets large enough to bring in your buggy. It's not totally private, but it's private enough for the self-conscious.

Once you're done, head done to the food hall and have yourself a Pinkberry frozen yogurt... remember to add the chocolate "goodness crunch" - nom, nom, nom...

Sunday, 3 March 2013

V&A, South Kensington

Take the corridor opposite this lovely statue for the Education Centre and cafe   
Oh my! I think I've found the most stylish changing rooms in London. Look at those tiles! And gold taps indeed! Cosmo's getting ideas above his station... forget about the exhibits, we're staying in the bogs...

While the V&A doesn't have a dedicated nursing room, they do have individual toilets/changing rooms off the cafe (not signposted, ask for directions...) which have a chair - so I guess if you're really desperate for privacy (who really likes feeding so close to a toilet...?) you can ensconce yourself here.

Alternatively, you can use one of the lunch rooms (the smaller one is usually empty) in the Education Centre. They even told me they'd be happy to open up a seminar room if someone wanted complete privacy for feeding.

The cafe is another Benugo (boys done good) with a beautiful seating area. It has plenty of room for buggies but can get busy and noisy - and the chaotic food section isn't ideal either. However, the central courtyard is a mere hop and a skip away if your baby (and you) need to escape the madding crowds. (At least, in winter, no doubt it's packed in summer...)
Not the most flattering angle...
Private changing room / toilet off the cafe

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Natural History Museum

Cosmo riveted by dinosaurs
You'll have to bear with me on this one, but one of the many great things about The Natural History Museum is (are? who'd guess I have a PhD in English Literature...) the ceilings. No, really. While everyone else is looking at the dinosaurs, I'm looking up. And so's Cosmo for that matter - not that he has any choice in the matter. For their first six months, babies rarely get to see anything engaging because they have to lie-flat. Thus, I'm thinking the Natural History Museum with its lovely patterned ceilings must be a treat for Cosmo. Certainly he was memorized for hours - okay, minutes - but he found them more interesting than the dinosaurs anyway (see photo...)

The Natural History Museum is another fabulous and free museum, once again offering a great day out for the new mother who's sick and tired of the four walls at home. There are plenty of benches on which to perch to feed your baby or a great cafe by Benugo (is there any London museum without a Benugo...?). The picnic area in the basement is also a popular area for mothers to have a quick sit down and a feed, although when I went it was difficult to find a quiet spot amongst the 30,000 kids on school trips.

If you fancy solitude, there's a semi-private nursing room just off the main hall with comfy chairs and footstools. It's a great facility (much better than the neighbouring Science Museum) but could easily be made more cosy with a lick of paint. At the moment, the decor is a cross between a prison visitor's waiting room and my first room in a student halls of residence. Why someone hasn't at least stuck up a poster of a dinosaur, I don't know. Maybe I'll try a little guerrilla decorating myself next time...

Cosmo looking rightly subdued
Would a lick of paint hurt?

Sunday, 24 February 2013


One bedraggled new mother in my NCT class said without Ocado she would have killed herself. She said it with a perfectly straight face. The thing is although it might seem an inconsequential part of everyday life, navigating the narrow aisles of a supermarket can be a very real ordeal for an incompetent mother. Indeed, I found it a nightmare before I was a mother. All those pushy, rude, sweaty people. And that's just the staff.

But with baby and pram in tow, supermarket shopping takes on a whole new level of hideousness. All those ankles to run into. Where to put the shopping? How to quell the crying baby? What to do when 'baby brain' robs you of remembering your pin number? Where's Dale Winton when you need him?

The answer: Ocado. Pure and simple. Home delivery groceries service, brought right into your kitchen. Furthermore, they stock a whole range of essentials for the new mother like nappies, nipple creams, breast pads etc. I don't know that I would have killed myself without it, but it has made my life as a new mother an awful lot easier.

John Lewis, Oxford Street

A sink alongside the baby change unit. Huzzar!
Ah, John Lewis! Everyone knows John Lewis in Oxford Street is the place to go for new mums, don't they? Don't they? Er... nope. I thought I knew John Lewis pretty well as I'd spend six months of my pregnancy buying up their store. But once again, I'm the last to know that it's famed for its baby-friendly facilities.

Throughout the store, signs point you in the direction of the "Parents Room" on the fourth floor where they apparently have a rest area for exhaused parents (are there any other kind?), private nursing booths and excellent baby change facilities. I say apparently because on the two occasions I've tried to use the Parents' Room, there's been a queue for the nursing booths. (I'll not get into the discussion of who on earth  queues for a nursing booth... evidently other people's babies are more polite than Cosmo...)

So what to do? Find a comfy bed and get on with it? Tempting but no. I'll let you in on a little secret... John Lewis has an un-signposted Parents' Room on the fifth floor, which due to it's un-signpostedness has plenty of room. You don't have a completely private booth, but you have a screened off area with comfy chairs and a table. On the other side of the screen there's an area for bottle feeding with bottle warming facilities - how nice is that?

It doesn't stop there. The baby changing area is probably the best I've seen. Not as plush as Harrods, but very well designed with a sink alongside. Hurray for not having to pick up your baby with pooey hands!

This Parents' Room is alongside the cafe / restaurant 'The Place to Eat'. This is one of the best places for an incompetent mother to grab a bite. Why you ask? For one very good reason: the staff always offer to carry your tray. Nowhere else in London has someone offered to carry my tray. Staff in empty restaurants have watched with blank stares as  I precariously balance a bottle of water and a croissant on a tray crashing the Bugaboo into chair after chair. Not so here.

"Can I help you to your seat with that?"
"Yes, surely you can, kind sir, thanking you kindly."

Such a small detail can not only alter an incompetent mother's decision on what to have for lunch (starter, lunch and pudding? Hey, I'm breastfeeding don't you know...) but whether to have lunch  at all. So three cheers for John Lewis. We'll be back.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Kensington Gardens


At my NCT “Early Days” course last week, a mother of a 7-week-old baby revealed that she goes on daily 2-hour outings to Regent’s Park to run up the hills. Let’s take a moment to consider the words ‘daily’ and ‘run up hills’. Never right in any context, but for a mum of a 7-week old baby? I literally had to sit on my hands to stop myself throttling her.

Anyhoo, it got me thinking about how important park life is to new mothers, especially incompetent ones like myself.

In many ways parks are perfect outings for incompetent mothers. For starters there’s tons of room, so little risk of crashing into anything (as a kindly lady in Notting Hill delicately put it last week, “You need driving lessons for that thing, love…”) And if you need an emergency breastfeeding session, there’s plenty of benches to plonk yourself down on. Yes, it might be pissing it down and you’ll probably be cosying up with the local nutter (or the slightly unnerving “Pigeon Woman” if you’re in Kensington Gardens), but at least you can get your screaming baby fed without suffering the disapproving looks of cafe diners or fellow Tube passengers.

I live right next to Kensington Gardens, the northern gateway to Hyde Park – the biggest green space in central London. While it's a stunningly beautiful park even in winter, the facilities are not great. For example, at the northern end there are toilets with baby change facilities in the disabled toilet. But as far as I can see, they're permanently locked. There's a button next to the entrance saying 'Push for Assistance'. Well I did, but assistance did not arrive. 

In the summer, it's a great place to picnic, but in winter the eating opportunities are slim picking. For some reason the Royal Parks closes its stall by Lancaster Gate so you're pretty much have the choice of the sausage stall next to High Street Ken or the posh and hopelessly serviced Orangerie at the Palace. Neither is ideal for a new mother, who usually likes the option of a warm sit down (sausage stall is al fresco) and walls that don’t endlessly echo the potential screams of a newborn (Orangerie is echoy). Still, The Lido and the Serpentine Bar and Kitchen is a short walk away and both offer good step-free access for buggies. But regardless of this - and most importantly - the park offers new parents an opportunity to get out of the house, stretch the legs and hopefully knock out the littlun with a good dose of the closest thing we have to fresh air in London.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Wholefoods, High Street Kensington

Mid-morning cakes amid empty tables
Who doesn't love Wholefoods??! All those cakes. I believe they sell other things too, but I've never seen them cos I'm too busy staring at the cakes.  Pre-Cosmo, I was well aware that Wholefoods was a great place for buggy-pushers because my local branch (High Street Ken) was chocker with them.

Wholefoods is one of those places where the facilities and staff attitude lives up to their company's ethos. When I met up with some NCT friends there last week, Cosmo spent half the time howling (who was I to know I have a blocked duct and wasn't getting any milk? Whoops...)

If I'd been by myself I'd've scarpered quick sharpish - nothing raises an incompetent mother's  stress levels than a crying baby in an enclosed crowded space. (It's not that competent mothers don't have babies that cry, it's just they rightly accept and get on with it...). But when you're with other people, you have to try to pretend you're competent or at least trying.

I was relieved that when a staff member came over it wasn't to boot me out, but to coo at Cosmo until he stopped crying. Magic.

As well as having a family friendly vibe, Wholefoods puts on regular events, including a fortnightly Babies Club (10am-11am) where, rumour has it, they serve free juice, tea and... wait for it... CAKES. Naturally, if there's a cake involved, and a free one at that, I'll be there (purely for the purpose of this investigative blog, you understand...). However, as an incompetent mother, I turned up on the wrong week and learned that even if I had been there at the right time, I would have needed to to book. (I thought it was a drop in...). I'll do a separate post on the Babies Club if I ever get there at the right time. They also host Monkey Music class for babies at 2.30pm on Tuesdays. Sadly this clashes with Cosmo's feeding time, but hopefully I'll get to a class elsewhere and report back...
Comfy chair with coat pegs and magazine

Practicalities for feeding:

Wholefood has great facilities for breast or bottle feeding, and very good baby change. The 'Room With a View' is usually a quiet place to sit if you'd to escape the restaurant floor which can get very crowded. However, if you wish to nurse in complete private there's a little room tucked away in the basement for just such a purpose. As the restaurant floor gets so crowded at lunch I'd definitely head to the Nursing Room. However, morning time is great for an incompetent mum to get her first cake fix of the day - before noon, the place is pretty much empty so plenty of room for the buggy and a relaxed atmosphere for feeding. Furthermore, there's no witnesses to your 9am cake scoffing.  

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

National Gallery, Trafalgar Square

Cosmo had been nagging me for weeks to take him to see the two Rembrandt self-portraits in The National Gallery in an effort to determine once and for all whether the illusion of depth really is owed to the painter's reputed binocular vision or whether it's just nonsense. (He determined it was all just nonsense...)

All London museums offer a great day out for incompetent mothers, but the National Gallery is particularly good. There's tons of space and a sparsity of doors so it's easy for even the most incompetent buggy-driver to get around. Even better, if you're baby's in a sling, you might find them transfixed by all the paintings. I didn't think Cosmo would take any notice, but he seemed to really enjoy staring at the faces...

The National Gallery welcomes breastfeeding anywhere and everywhere, so feel free to sit down in front of a Picasso. However, if you don't want to add to the bare breasts already on display, there's a nursing room with change facilities on the first floor of the Sainsbury Wing. It's quite well hidden so ask security if you can't find it.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Serpentine Bar & Kitchen, Hyde Park

Serpentine Bar and Kitchen

What numbnut had the bright idea of putting an Xcelator-style hand dryer into The Serpentine Bar and Kitchen baby change toilet? The startling ear-splitting noise is enough to put the heebie-jeebies up a grown-up let alone a baby. Maybe they thought scaring the shit out of babies would be helpful under the circumstances...

To be fair, it's not like TSK is the only one. These fancy dryers are dotted all around London. I've taken to wiping my hands on my trousers. Amongst the stains of vomit and poop, it hardly matter if people think I've wet myself as well.

But SB&K has other things going for it that make up for the dryer...

Like any place which serves good food (and this one does) in a good location (the south end of the Serpentine lake), it gets horrifically busy. So really, I can only recommend going outside of traditional meals times, preferably on a winter's weekday. But if you get there when it's emptyish, it has a very friendly vibe and is popular with buggy-pushers stopping off during a walk in Hyde Park. There's a number of tables with room enough for a pram alongside and you'll have no problem with elbow room if you're feeding. Plus, if you're feeling really self-conscious about your crying baby or breastfeeding you can sit outside on one of the numerous tables as I did with my first visit with Cosmo....

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Tara Lee's Baby Yoga

Let me get one thing straight. I’m not a yoga person - never have been, never will be. I make concrete look flexible. I kid you not when I say I can’t even do child’s pose. I look like a giant, wobbly 'S', quivering under the effort to get my bottom anywhere near my heels. (One instructor took it upon herself to sit on my back to get my bottom to lower. It didn't work; my thighs and stomach stubbornly refused to magically disappear...) During pregnancy, I flitted from class to class trying to find one where I would fit in – and by ‘fit in’ I was looking for a class of plus-sized ladies who cannot do and do not like yoga. 

I didn’t find it.

Why, you might ask, was I committed to finding a class when I don’t like yoga? A valid question. Well, I like the idea of yoga. All that breathing and oneness with your body, Mother Earth and quasi spirituality. What's not to like? Plus, everyone said it’s the thing to do in pregnancy.  Forgo the epidural and just do hip circles. It’ll make labour a breeze. Oh yes. Labour. A breeze. I tell you, its difficult to do hip circles when your legs are locked into stirrups in an emergency ventouse delivery, and doctors - for some reason - don't like it when you try.

Any road up. We've gathered I don’t like yoga. I can’t do yoga. So what better first class to take baby Cosmo to that Baby Yoga at The Life Centre in Notting Hill?

Photo stolen from Tara's wesbite
While I still can't claim to be a bonafide yoga convert, there are several things that keep me coming back to Tara's class. In no particular order:

1. The Vibe - Having done pregnancy yoga, I'm accustomed to being the only person in the class who looks like the back end of a bus and Tara's class is no exception. Its Notting Hill after all; everyone has a flat stomach and back in their pre-pregnancy skinny jeans. But the difference is, this class has a welcoming vibe (unlike some I could mention... cough, cough, Primrose Hill, cough...). As well as overlooking the fact I still look six months pregnant, no one in Tara's class seems to care that my hair hasn't been washed for a week or that I am attempting to pass off vomit-stained pjs as yoga pants.

2. Tara Herself - She's beautiful. I could sit and watch her all day if she hadn't taken out an injunction against me. Plus, she has a vibe that all yoga teachers should have: soulful, kind and zen-like; a calming anchor for a room of mothers tearing their hair out with screaming babies.

3. Music - Google Anni B. Sweet's 'Take on Me'. It's now one of mine and Cosmo's songs.

4. Massage - Get this: at the end of the class, if there's time to spare, Tara and her assistant go round the room asking if yogies would like a shoulder or foot massage. Yes please, yes I would. 

5. Cosmo Time - While the first half of the class is dedicated to normal yoga the rest is 'Baby Yoga' which involves swinging, stretching, singing and dancing with your baby. I can't say Cosmo is totally convinced (except the 'toes to nose' bit which he finds hilarious) but I totally love it.

But what I love best about Tara's class is that nobody really cares if you don't do the yoga. The exercises are almost manageable for an incompetent like myself but if you feel like sitting out (which I frequently do) you can just hold you baby and watch. One of Tara's wonderful assistants might flitter over and offer to hold your crying baby while you strike a pose but I always turn them down, playing up the role of obsessive mother rather than the lazy arse that I am. And, like all classes for babies, nobody cares if your baby cries. Because everyone's baby cries. No dirty looks, no stress, no embarrassment. Just lots of sympathy and lots of opportunities to make new friends. It's an incompetent mother's dream. 

So, at the end of the class, I might not have done much yoga but I come out feeling all the better for a good stretch and a better, more grounded person. A better mother even. And that in itself is worth an awful lot more than the £15 PAYG fee.
Note on the practicalities:
A small downside is a lack of disabled or roomy toilets. However, the class is so friendly no one minds minding your babe while you nip to the loo. Classes can get crowded, so arrive in good time.

Monday, 21 January 2013

Cranial Osteopathy

My first top tip for incompetent parents (and even competent parents) is the Osteopathic Centre for Children in Wandsworth.

This noble organisation is a charity that provides osteopathy for children and mothers. I'd heard good things about cranial osteopathy for babies (helping with collic, crying, sleeping etc) while pregnant but when my littlun was born with a huge cut and bruising on his head finding an osteopath became a priority. The damage to my boy's neck (he was stuck for several hours - no dwelling here...) and scalp (horrible ventouse delivery - still not dwelling...) meant he couldn't breastfeed. The hospital could hardly have cared less (really not dwelling...).

Having done some research (thanks Mumsnet), I quickly realised the OCC was the place to go. It was over the other side of London and, Lord forbid, on the other side of the river, but we took Cosmo along at one week old, then two weeks, then three weeks. I can't tell you how wonderful these people are. Firstly they took really interest and care in my baby, something I was extremely grateful for after the treatment we'd received at the hospital. And secondly because of the results. At the time, I thought it was nothing short of miraculous. And I still do.

Bear in mind, my little bub couldn't even be put down in my arms to breastfeed without being extremely uncomfortable or in pain. After every session of osteopathy, we came home and he  breastfed for half an hour. Gradually over about six weeks,  he got to the point where he could breastfeed 24/7. (The fact I had blocked ducts, blood blisters, blebs, cracks nipples, engorgement and nipple thrush meant I was now more reluctant than he was...) Many people say there's no science or proof behind osteopathy, but I tell these people to GO WHISTLE. We saw real, tangible results in the short and long term. And a baby's response to treatment can't be psychosomatic, can it?

A third reason for the OCC's wonderfulness is that the full rate is only £35 a session, a fraction of the cost of osteopaths in my area (approx. £100 a session). Furthermore, you don't actually have to pay. That's right - they're a charity. So if you can't afford it, you can make any contribution you like. Or nothing at all. All the osteopaths are volunteers. We saw Simon Grayling. The man's a genius.

p.s.  Just a quick note on the practicalities for other incompetent mothers: the centre is really pram and baby friendly. They have couches to wait on when you turn up an hour early (yes, I was desperate), tissues for those baby blues (yup...), roomy toilets and special chairs for feeding. We took Addison Lee cars which were a mixed bag but more affordable than a black cab.

Sunday, 20 January 2013

So nice to meet you!

Well hello kindly reader! Let me introduce myself - I'm an incompetent mother of a three-month old baby living in central London.

The aim of this blog is to share some of my hideously incompetent attempts to get out and about in central London. My ventures probably won't interest all those competent size-zero mothers (and fathers) scooting round Notting Hill, adoring babies strapped to their gravity-defying bosoms. But it may be of use to those parents who knock over a dozen tables attempting to get their buggy into Pain Quotidien only to turn straight round when their baby starts bawling. If your definition of "discreet breastfeeding" is only having one knocker hanging out in Islam-centric Edgware Road, this blog may well be for you.

Motherhood hasn't endowed me with special incompetent qualities - I've always been this way. However, motherhood has certainly offered more opportunities for me to feel inadequate.

It started with the birth. I did all the classes. Yup. ALL the classes. A British Red Cross Baby First Aid course in Euston (very good, go along...), several yoga classes (still hate it, but the best by far was Tara Lee at the Life Centre), birth preparation (meh), Hypnobirthing (cough, cough, splutter, splutter...), NCT and '2 becomes 3' course (highly recommended). Every day for nine loooong months, I did my special yoga exercises, gazed soulfully at hypnobirthing images of blooming roses, listened to relaxation tapes, sat in ridiculously uncomfortable positions and bounced on my birth ball. All in all, no one could be more prepared. Except of course I wasn't. It all went pear-shaped. My incompetency came into it's own and it was only 2 months afterwards that I stopped walking like someone out of Monty Python's Ministry of Silly Walks. We won't 'dwell' but suffice to say my incompetency in motherhood began then and has continued apace.

So, after three months, I've decided I need to get out of the house. But where to go when you panic every time your baby cries, you don't know how to fold your buggy and you're still not 100% sure that your baby's nappy isn't on back to front? With this little exercise I hope to share any tips at lessening (albeit minutely) the hideous incompetency I feel when out in public. Hopefully I'll find some little spots that are welcoming and accessible for incompetent mums like me and some quite spot to breastfeed. If you have any tips of your own, please share along the way... we're in it together!