Accidental Chorley

I have always been under the impression that having a baby grounds you but happily so in a vommity cosy nest of your own making, your neighbourhood transfused with a new misty-eyed glow, the familiar now unfamiliar when a small hand is entwined with yours and contentment generally reigning supreme.

I however am bored. The house smells of sour milk, I am sick of Lancaster and I miss the thrill of somewhere new where the exotic and the ancient clash side by side, where narrow cobbled streets lead to the unknown, new shops, restaurants, smells, boutique hotels with handmade chocolates on the bed.

So I decide to go to Preston again.

It is just far away enough for it to be a journey somewhere else (a breathtaking fifteen minutes) but near enough to be affordable and for me not to be lynched by a baying Carling fuelled mob should the new baby, clipper of wings decide to emit that undulating endless cry for which babies’ are justly renowned and feared.

I initially wanted to go to Wigan and eat at The Coven, the pleasing juxtaposition of witchy shop and vegetarian friendly café but finances are tight and it would cost an extra seven pounds in train fare.

But then once on the train I am filled with a searing clarity. I WILL go to Wigan. I will have an adventure! Go somewhere a bit different, go to a different branch of TK Maxx! And eat a well-priced Stilton and walnut lasagne whilst perusing a book of spells on Wigan high street. I am impressed with my fortitude and independence. I ask the conductor for my ticket to be extended to go to Wigan, pay the extra seven pounds, we go through Preston and I remain seated, amazed at my own daring. Then realise the train doesn’t go to fucking Wigan.

The world comes tumbling around me. The excitement of alighting at Wigan with a baby in a sling and a song in my heart had been akin to Cook first stepping off in Van Diemens Land, the Statue of Liberties’ torch first seen silhouetted in the sky by a ship full of immigrants nothing in comparison to seeing the sign for Uncle Joe’s mint balls on the brick wall near Wigan station.  I had even sent people texts saying I was going to Wigan so they could also be excited on my behalf.

But no. Next stop Chorley.

In the rain.

Not even the pedestrian crossing works and I stand clutching my baby watching traffic whizz past into a grim grey horizon whilst thinking ‘This would never happen in Wigan.’

Maybe it’s because my excited independent mood has been replaced by the knowledge I am an utter idiot and baby and I are hatless and wet but Chorley appears to be quite rubbish. Where might I consult a grimoire and eat a well-priced vegetarian meal? There is a lack of cafes immediately visible and the ones I can see are of the type offering bacon butties and yesterday’s Express not portals into unknown dimensions and homemade tzaiki.

I go in a charity shop and am filled with the usual anger at the paucity of boys clothing that is not blue, bobbly and containing some hideous slogan as to the purported horribleness of the wearer. If I see something unusual it must be purchased, hence me deciding to buy a far too big, over washed furry Dalmatian outfit for the poor poor baby. I was not expecting this to lead to the woman behind the counter chirpily informing me she called her son ‘the Dalmatian’ because he’s  ‘half caste and he’s white but black down below.’

I smile politely and run. It beats discussing birth weights at any rate and I had to fight the urge to ask to see a photo of him in the bath.

In another charity shop, a man in a motorised disability cart is angry because he can’t get up the steps into the second floor, which seems to mostly be womenswear and mugs extolling the joys of golf. He is saying that Thatcher passed a law to make sure this sort of thing didn’t happen. The elderly lady remains stoic behind her counter and refuses to carry him up.

There are more charity shops selling cheap mass produced clothes for 75 % of their original cost lining the streets along with second division chain stores and struggling independent budget shops of one form and another like a pictorial backdrop of ‘recession hit Britain’ on the BBC.   I know I sound churlish but my hair is frizzy, I don’t want to spend seven quid on a three-year-old Primark dress even though I like it and I am nervous at finding somewhere to breastfeed.

I have pleasingly strong cheap filter coffee (£1.50 for about a pint) in a cafe and discretely attempt it but baby is on hunger strike possibly after seeing the grotty Dalmatian outfit. I am sure Chorley has its nice bits, I see some enticing looking church arches at the end of the high street but I decide to cut my losses and go.

Preston and the excitement of a different branch of TK Maxx awaits. This is what I have been reduced to, my great adventure ending waiting yet again at the never changing traffic lights dreaming impotently of the golden spires of Wigan.

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