20 April 2011

Of men and machines

When all else fails, read the instructions – lest you want to be reduced to a weeping heap, writes Andy Ellis.


When all else fails, read the instructions – lest you want to be reduced to a weeping heap.

It says, “Insert rod here.“ Yeah, well I did that nine months ago and see where it got us.

Funny guy. Why the attitude?
Hey, I’m just reading the manual.

The baby’s gone ballistic again. What’s wrong with her?

Don’t know. I’ve changed her nappy.
Where’s the dummy?
I pinned it to her chest.
Well, it’s not there now.

Check the car boot.
The boot? How could it be in the boot?
Last time we found it inside her nappy, remember? It could be anywhere. Check the boot, in the tyre well. I found one in there last week.

Please stop wailing, Jemma. Daddy will buy you a pony if you do. Anything.

She’s only one month old, Andy. She’s meant to wail like an air-raid siren. I think she’s tired. Get her moving. Put her in the pram. She’ll fall asleep.
Sure. Yes. Great idea. But I’ve removed the plastic wrapper, inserted the axle-rod thingy, pushed the red button, stretched, fiddled and bashed this cursed perambulating nightmare a hundred times. Trust me, it’s a dud. It won’t flippin’ unfold.

Dear God forgive me, for I am considering the slow torture and ultimate demise of someone dear. And it’s not my crying baby.
What have I done? Your parents bought the thing. Why don’t you call that tile-the-bathroom, mend-the-telly, plaster-the-bloody-parapet Mr Fix-It father of yours? He bought this poncy suburban 4x4 pram. He should be the one releasing cables and pushing buttons for his precious little girls.
He doesn’t know how. I’ve called him.
What? You actually called your father before you asked me to open the pram? That does it. I’m your man. I can fix stuff too, you know.

Waaaaaah!                                                                                                                                                                            That’s it. You take the baby, Andy. Give me the manual. Step aside. OK, it reads: remove clip, push button, release brake, pram will open, insert wailing child, plug in fresh dummy (coated in colic remedy water if desperate) and push.

And, just as luck would have it, the darn pram gracefully releases its inhibitions. Spring for spring. Clasp for clasp. Petal patterns blossom from the creased fabric, chrome twinkles in the morning light, forest birds twitter and calm descends. The pram transforms into a work of art. I stand mesmerised by its sleek design, ergonomic construction and natty little handbrake. The zip-up rain cowl with plastic inspection hatch is cute, too.

If making babies is a sport, then the modern pram is essential gear. At this point I should make it clear that I had been vociferous in my protest against the purchase of excessive baby paraphernalia in the months my child luxuriated inside her mother’s womb. I despised how clever marketers plug into the ga-ga-ness of first-time parenting, locking suckers into phenomenally excessive purchases.

Yes, people. That free “Baby on Board” sticker is not provided out of concern for your child. It is the “Sold Another Baby Thing to the Gullible Driver of this Car” disclaimer required by commercial law.

But this pram, with its multilevel reclining back, side-impact bars and Volvo-like braking, changed my opinion on the spot. It cocooned my newborn and silenced her cacophony. It softened my cynicism. I have since bought every piece of baby bling on the market. One problem: I never quite worked out how to fold the damn pram. So I bought a new car with a huge boot.

Andy Ellis is the editor of Men’s Health magazine

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