I’ve lived in south London (Battersea, Brixton, and now Camberwell) for most of my life. I love it for a million reasons – one of which is the glorious familiarity of my favourite independent cafes, shops and bars, and also the regular excitement at discovering new places to enjoy. South London has always been wonderfully diverse, but I must admit to witnessing with some alarm, the gradual creeping in of more and more chain coffee shops, with their airport lounge furnishings and bland coffees.
And who goes to them? First thing in the morning it’s commuters but I’ve noticed that later in the day they’re often populated by suburban yummy mummies, pushing their Bugaboos into Brixton and Borough for a bit of a day out, who feel safest and happiest in the same brand coffee shops they could have gone to if they’d stayed local.
The thing is, and bearing all of my sneering snobbery in mind, I am now eight months pregnant. A big part of me is terrified of “mummy-fication”: apart from the daunting responsibility and my total ignorance of how my life’s going to change, a much shallower part of me wonders if I will have to start hanging out with people with whom the only thing I have in common is that we all have babies? Will we meet in big branded coffee shops after baby-yoga/music/swimming/algebra and talk slightly competitively about our babies’ development? Will I suddenly get a taste for bland, overpriced, corporate coffee and only feel safe and clean changing my baby in the corporate loos of the establishments selling it? Does becoming a mum mean I have to stop being me? Shit, I really hope not.
On the other hand, when I try and think practically about life with a baby, I can see the obvious attraction of Costa Coffee’s baby-changing facilities – but I’m still not keen to become a customer. So to help me try and get a grip, I’m trying to start planning places to go and things to do that don’t necessarily involve hanging out with loads of other mums (unless they happen to be brilliant mates) while keeping a practical eye on available facilities (but please, not in Costa or even worse, Starbucks.)
Obviously, I’m going to be spending more daytimes out and about in the local area than I’m currently accustomed to, so it seems to make sense to think about locally accessible parks – and happily there are more than I realised, right on my doorstep: Within a 30 minute walk from our flat are no less than seven parks: Myatt’s Fields, Loughborough Park, Ruskin Park, Lucas Gardens, Brunswick Park, Camberwell Green, Burgess Park and, with a following wind and an extra slice of toast for breakfast, it’s not much of an extra stretch to reach Brockwell Park or Peckham Rye.
As for cafes and shops – I realise increasingly that I’m going to have to jettison at least some of my hideous inverse snobbery and get whatever buggy is smallest and nippiest and least likely to prevent me getting round the markets, on and off the buses, and in and out of the tiny independent shops in south London I’m so fond of. I realised the other day that there’s a baby-changing facility in the the excellent public loos in Brixton Market so that’s one fear squashed – no need to visit Costa or Starbucks there…which just leaves me the rest of south London to map out. I’ll let you know how I get on.
Words: Holly Atkins, actor and trepidatious mother-to-be