Its a peculiarly Glasgow thing, I think. Small child is offered something, biscuits usually – rice cakes if you are a West End mum – and given “one for each hand”. When F and EB were little, they thrilled at being given not one but two treats. This ritual is tough on R who has really no hand use at all.
As in immigrant to the “dear green place”, I can confirm that Glasgow deserves its reputation as a friendly city. No matter how curmudgeonly you are, it is almost impossible in Glasgow not be engaged in conversation on the bus, in the shop, at the park. Visitors to the city, always comment on the genuinely friendly taxi drivers, even if they don’t always understand everything they say. (Taxi drivers in Glasgow are really special. As a student, I was once harassed while waiting for a bus at a deserted bus stop late at night. A black cab was driving past, saw what was happening, stopped and offered to take me home. When I protested that I couldn’t afford the fare, he told me that he didn’t expect me to pay, that he and his colleagues were Dads themselves and that if I ever found myself in that situation again, just to flag down a cab. They would always take me home.)
Needless to say, in Glasgow, staff in shops usually like to have a wee chat with your children. In response, F is taciturn, EB blushes and R … Well, right there is my problem. The conversation goes like this: “Hello, beautiful. What’s your name, gorgeous? Not speaking today?” And I genuinely don’t know what to say. If I say “R can’t speak”, then I risk embarrassing the sales assistant, and quite possibly R. If I say nothing, then I still risk embarrassing R. So what do I do?
We had one of those rare sunny days this week that demanded a trip to the ice cream shop after school. I put R in the buggy and EB and I set off. The girls were both in their school uniform and a number of people stared at R, clearly old enough for school and yet still in a buggy. EB found this rude (it was) and asked whether she should stare right back, and, perhaps drunk on stratiacella ice cream, I said that she could. My supermarket dilemma is much more difficult. There, the sales assistants are just being friendly.
Today, R and I visited Waitrose. We don’t go there a lot but its often easier when we are alone. Most supermarkets don’t provide trolleys suitable for R or baskets that can be held while pushing a buggy. The Waitrose store is small enough that R can usually manage to walk and if she can’t then I don’t have far to carry her. In Waitrose, you are given a token when you pay which you then drop into one of three containers depending on which of three charities you wish to support this month. Children enjoy this ritual. At the check out in Waitrose today the friendly assistant chatted to R, asked her her name and then produced two tokens – one for each hand. I muttered our thanks, grabbed the tokens, grabbed R and rushed for the door.