Friday, 11 January 2008

Off to Rabbit Rhymes

It’s Friday so we’re off to Rabbit Rhymes - a Nappy Valley institution. Although Rabbit Rhymes actually exists all over London, it is particularly prevalent in those postcodes where parents are prepared to shell out £70 a term for ten minutes of their toddlers listening to a teacher warble made-up tunes about a blue plush Rabbit, followed a short march around the room and a few seconds lying on blankets. That's before they have to kiss Rabbit goodbye and vacate the room sharpish because the next army of mothers and prams has arrived.

You can spot where a Rabbit Rhymes is taking place because of the dazzling array of brightly coloured Bugaboo buggies outside the venue. There isn’t a cheapo pushchair in sight, and those pushing them are a collection of Nappy Valley Yummy Mummies clad in jeans, boots and cashmere cardies, East European nannies and the odd, shifty-looking Dad. Occasionally, you might spot some grandparents saddled with taking the kids to Rabbit Rhymes. “My daughter’s in Courchevel,” they tell you (sounding slightly boastful but also slightly disapproving because in their day, you didn’t just bugger off skiing and leave the kids with your parents for a week), before making the standard remark: “Isn’t it funny how everyone round here has the same pushchair?”

Our particular Rabbit Rhymes takes place in a church hall slap bang in the centre of the trendy ‘Village’ and as such is filled with particularly well-heeled types, their kids dressed in mini-Boden and cute knits from JoJo Maman Bebe. My own sons , sporting those desirable labels Early Days by Primark and George at Asda, are definitely letting the side down. As am I, having struggled half a mile in the rain with a double buggy and rubbish umbrella. I am soaking wet, dishevelled and wearing my hiking socks; considerably less soignée than most mothers, who either live around the corner or have driven in their 4X4. (The one time I drove, I got a parking ticket and ended up in a screaming match with a traffic warden – one of the many amusing pastimes of being a local parent in this part of London).

The permanently harrassed looking Rabbit Rhymes teacher looks resigned to her fate as she takes the register and prays that her CD player is working this week. The toddlers, who are supposed to be sitting on mats on the floor, are racing around the hall in a state of minor frenzy. At least one has slipped over in a small puddle where the roof has leaked (the teacher looks aghast, no doubt imagining lawsuits to follow). Their mothers are more than likely ignoring them either to tend to a howling younger sibling, whom they are trying in vain to get to sleep in the pram for the duration of the class, or alternatively texting on their mobile.

Ludicrous names abound as the teacher greets her class. “Hello, Inka.” “ What a lovely smile, Horatio!”

“What’s your baby brother called?” the teacher asks little Ophelia one day. “Sal,” she replies. “Sam?” says the teacher doubtfully. “No, Sal.” We all look a bit perplexed. “Salvador,” explains Ophelia’s mum, as if it were obvious that that would be the case. (I wonder about the origins of this name – she certainly doesn’t look Hispanic, and the Ophelia and Salvador are as blond as they come, suggesting dad isn’t either – maybe they are big Dali fans?)

Then we all sing the Rabbit Rhymes welcome song, some more enthusiastically than others. You can spot the career mums, having Friday off, who look as if they would rather go home and chew off their own toenails than sit in a draughty church hall singing “Rabbit loves to clap his paws.” Or, worse, those who have given up a high powered career to be a stay at home mum, their expressions almost writ-large on their faces: “I used to run public affairs for a City mega-giant, but now I sing songs about my daughter’s pink wellies”.

Despite it only being a 30 minute music class, there are little cliques within the mothers at Rabbit Rhymes. Some are friends from NCT classes who have joined up together; some are neighbours. Those who are neither (ie., us) are consequently regarded with slight suspicion by the other mums. I also (shock, horror) sometimes chat to the nannies while we’re waiting outside – I remember the horrified look one mother gave me when I asked an au pair whether she was going home for Christmas. Round here, Mums talk to mums and nannies to nannies and never the twain shall mix. Except, of course, if you are trying to poach someone else’s nanny, a phenomenon I’ve seen on Desperate Housewives but also heard anecdotally goes on in Nappy Valley.

After the class, it’s off to Starbucks for a latte, a ‘babycino’ for the kids, (a cup of hot milk and chocolate sprinkles for the princely sum of £1) and a gossip about the latest organic food shops, how wonderful it is that Waitrose now delivers and – wow – there’s a Jigsaw Junior on the Northcote Road now. All part of a day in the life of a mum in Nappy Valley…..

1 comment:

Kit said...

Shame that we were several years apart with our babies. I'd have been right there with you with the non-matching buggy and the George from Asda labels, except for the in labels I picked up for a song in the Northcote road charity shops!
Back in 2000 I was doing a similar round, except it was the Battersea park one O clock Club, then the Balham one and I don't think Rabbit Rhymes was around then.