Babe: Three and a half and four quarters, if you ask her
Babeling: Six months

Ganny put me and my offspring on the train back from Scotland on Saturday, after a week of escaping babyfather’s DIY. We arrived on the platform just as the train was pulling into the station, and piled our luggage on, giggling about the fact that Gandad would never have allowed such a lackadaisical approach (he would have been there half an hour earlier. But on this occasion he was at home having broadband installed). I was still marvelling at our relaxed approach after Ganny had said goodbye and the guard was shutting the door of the carriage, in fact right up until the moment I realised that a) Ganny was still wearing on her back the bag of everything I needed for the journey and b) the train was moving. There was nothing I could do about it, although that did not stop me charging down the carriage and banging on the window like an idiot.

Before you think badly of my mother, the fact that she frequently cannot locate her handbag has not stopped her having a world-changing career and recently setting up a charity to train physiotherapists in developing countries. I see our shared scatter-brainedness as the side effect of having inspired minds, although in my case the inspired part is taking a long time to reveal itself…

God, I’m convinced, is close not only to the broken-hearted but also to the absent-minded – I’d removed my wallet and tickets from the essential travel bag a few minutes before getting on the train and they were safely in my pocket. That just left me without our lunch, and nappies. Unfortunately the babeling had diarrhoea. I walked the whole length of the train and there was not a single baby to be found, with or without nappy-toting parents. I trusted to my conviction that everything would be fine and sure enough, a couple with a baby of the right size got on at Newcastle. They insisted I had two nappies, and as many wetwipes as I could carry, just before the babeling’s next explosion.

Our seats were at a table and I instantly felt sorry for the other people sitting there – a smart-looking couple who didn’t appear to have children and to be quite happy without them. The man was plugged into his ipod and laptop and the woman was settling down to read a nice fat novel. These people saved my journey. The babe feigned shyness for the first 15 minutes as usual, resisting all coaxing into conversation, then developed a violent liking for the woman. I came back from the buffet with the babeling to find her and a neighbouring passenger splitting their sides – they had learnt that:
– Ganny’s kidneys are a bit better, but not completely
– You can’t see kidneys, because they’re inside
– The babe’s very best red-headed friend pushed her off a stool once
– My first name
– The babeling’s full name including the middle one
– The babeling has more hair than babyfather
– Mr Nobody is going to buy her a beautiful dress when she throws her dummies in the bin, aged four.

This wonderfully patient and forebearing passenger pretty much entertained (or endured) the babe all the way to Kings Cross. They did colouring, a wordsearch, and a lot of talking, while I got up and down changing nappies, soothing, buying food, rocking to sleep etc. The babeling looked like a very young zombie with a bad case of conjunctivitis making her right eye swollen, bloodshot and oozing, but she was dutifully admired. In fact, how did I think I was going to manage the journey without someone that helpful around? And is there one on every train?

If you’re reading this – thanks again! and the babe still says you can come over one day, so long as it’s a Sunday.

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