Cotswold towns do not lend themselves to pushchairs; they are filled with picturesque windy paths, cobbled streets and boutiques with narrow doorways and several sets of steps. Over the last year I have got to know my buggy’s limitations, and there are several well-worn circuitous paths we follow through town. We can never visit the butcher, for example, or the rather nice delicatessen. We can get in the doctor’s, but not the dentist. We can get through the first set of doors at the community centre, but not the second. Out of the half dozen or so places to have tea in town, only one can accommodate us (wide doors, three highchairs, toilet on the ground floor). We are such regulars in this cafe as a result that the manager has not only given us a loyalty card, but recently sought our advice on his new colour scheme.
I had time to kill one day between appointments; Sing with Suzie, followed by Jumparoo Jack and Music Mayhem (I find Tuesdays immensely hard work, and they generally culminate in Drinking Wine with Mummy). We had already been in the five shops in town we can fit into, it was raining, and I was searching for inspiration. I eyed up the door of the largest charity shop and calculated we would just fit in. Two minutes later the buggy was well and truly jammed in the doorway. No-one could get in or out, and we had to take the hinges off to release the pushchair and let us into the shop. I was mortified, and consequently felt obliged to buy twenty quid’s worth of other people’s cast-off crap, before slinking back out of the shop.
WHSmith is always a good bet, and we spend a disproportionate amount of time browsing their shelves. They have big double doors, wide aisles, they’re open on a Sunday, and they sell a reassuring amount of chocolate. It is in fact surprising to discover just how much you can spend in WHSmith, when it’s the only store you can easily access. If they’d just branch out into Tampax, I probably wouldn’t ever need to go anywhere else. This morning, on our way to the park, we popped into WHSmith to buy some more glue for this afternoon’s ‘Operation Home-Made Thank You Cards‘, which will involve handprints, sticking, some crying, and more wine. I thought the displays were overflowing at Christmas, but with Easter and Mother’s day just around the corner, the shelves were heaving with cards, teddies, mugs and a variety of chicks and bunnies. Free-standing boxes of wrapping paper stood at the end of every aisle, and ‘Special Offers!‘ were stacked haphazardly in every open space. After attempting to steer my way through this stationery maze I had to abort my mission and go glue-less. Collaring the store manager as he weaved past me near the exit, I laid into him about making his store accessible to the community; “What about disabled users? And other parents with double buggies? Have you any idea how much I have spent in your store over the last twelve months? It’s a disgrace…” and so on, and so on. He mumbled some explanation involving Head Office, miniumum widths, and profit margins, before escaping my glare and slipping though the staff room, no doubt to find more stock to bring out to the shop floor.
I pushed the buggy home, muttering to the Toddler about accessibility, diversity, building regulations, and genetically deficient store managers. He nodded in all the right places, and by the time we arrived home I was fairly calm. “We’ll go back,” I said to the Toddler. “We will keep going back and trying to get round the store, and in the end they’ll just have to re-think their displays. We’ll get the local paper involved; there’ll be a community protest, with me at the helm, and people will march through WHSmith shouting “ACCESS FOR ALL, ACCESS FOR ALL”, until they widen their aisles again”.
The Toddler nodded wisely and watched me take the babies out of the buggy and unload the bags. I pulled out the nappy bag and saw, to my dismay, no fewer than seven rolls of WHSmith sellotape nestling in the bottom of the shopping basket, into which they had evidently fallen as I barged my way past the adhesive section in search of glue. I shut the front door with a slam, as though the whole of Scotland Yard would otherwise pour into my living room and arrest me for shoplifting. “Maybe,” I mused to the Toddler, “maybe we won’t start our protest just yet“.
Photo credit: incurable_hippie