Every so often, we all make an error of judgement. I am particularly prone to this when it comes to choosing somewhere peaceful to sit and feed a hungry infant.
My personal top ten of Shit Places To Feed Babies includes a heaving gluhwein stall in the middle of a Berlin Christmas market, a windy clifftop outside a pub at a busy beer festival and a coffee shop where the clientele decided to loudly discuss the evils of formula milk as I prepared a bottle of said “poison” for my screaming infant and tried not to cry myself.
Needless to say with that pedigree I didn’t think twice today about entering what looked like a quaint olde worlde tea room in a quiet market town with one baby in need of milk and one toddler demanding orange juice and a biscuit. It seduced me with its exposed oak beams and ingenious if a little bizarre window display of cascading plastic pearls.
Unfortunately I didn’t realise until it was too late that the tea room was actually a pub, and that pub was clearly the preferred haunt of the town’s two oldest and most hardcore drunks. I noticed them propping up the bar just as I started giving the baby his bottle and was therefore a captive audience.
What attracted my attention was the sound of Drunk 2 coughing up what appeared to be the remainder of his right lung. This prompted Drunk 1, perhaps in an effort to distract me from the death rattle, to ask me over and over again whether I thought the baby’s bottle was warm enough. I was hugely relieved for once that I wasn’t breastfeeding – I think the entire place would have spontaneously combusted.
After about the ninth time, I realised that we were never going to progress past this endless repetition unless I moved the conversation on so I asked him whether he had children of his own.
‘Unfortunately not’, was the reply. I wasn’t quite sure what to say, so I mumbled something about them being a mixed blessing at times.
‘That depends on whether it was your choice,’ he roared.
‘Oh God,’ I thought, as the toddler shrank closer to me and almost kicked his juice over, ‘I am now going to spend the next hour debating lifestyle choices with a man who has drunk his own weight in whisky every day for the last four decades.’
Incredibly the baby came to our rescue by finishing his milk and then very loudly and proudly filling his pants.
‘Um, is there anywhere I can change a nappy?’ I asked the barmaid,who was studiously ignoring all of us. Deep down, I already knew the answer – it was obvious by now that nobody under the age of 65 had set foot in the place for quite some time.
“The restaurant,” she said, gesturing to another room. So we decamped to an empty cafe area (mmm, hygienic) where I discovered that the baby was quite literally up to his neck in his own creation and I was almost out of wet wipes. Somehow we struggled through, while Drunk 1 loitered in the doorway and attempted to tell me his life story while the toddler pretended to stab himself with a plastic fork he had somehow found on a chair.
After what felt like an eternity, we were ready to leave. I said goodbye to Drunk 1 for the 19th time, threw the baby into his buggy and yanked the toddler towards the door. We were literally two steps from freedom when my son looked up at me angelically.
“Mummy,” he said. “I’ve done a poo in my pants too.”