Friday 8 February 2008

A Buggy's Life

The saga of the Phil & Teds got me thinking that perhaps now would be a good time to explain a bit about buggy fashions in Nappy Valley.

For anyone who isn’t familiar with them, buggies, prams or ‘transport systems’, as they’re now described in the brochures, have changed a bit in the last decade. No longer is it enough to transport your child in a small, folding pushchair. Today’s models are highly-specified mini-vehicles sporting all-terrain wheels like a small 4x4. They boast mountaineering-style fabrics, about as many attachments as a battleship, and the comfort of a first class airline seat. The price tags are naturally high - more than a good mountain bike, with the top of the range coming in at around £600. (That’s before you take into account the accessories, which will add at least £150 to your bill). And forget blue for boys and pink for girls – buggies now come in sand, taupe and other zeitgeisty shades.

Yes, prams have become mini cars - a status symbol reflecting their owner’s income, aspirations and style, often traded in for newer models two years down the line. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if pram manufacturers started advertising their wares on TV – and with a price tag approaching that of a Smart car, why not?

Rather than the standard footage of cars gliding gracefully around hairpin bends in the Alps, the ads could demonstrate a mother jogging around the park with her high-performance stroller as part of a ‘buggyfit’ class. And instead of nipping through the cobbled streets of a European capital, the buggy could be shown negotiating Waitrose on a Saturday morning, or the pram park in 'Crumpet' on the Northcote Road – both feats requiring the steering skills of Michael Schumacher. Forget Clarkson reviewing the latest motors on Top Gear; a yummy mummy, (say Ulrika) could have her own show road-testing the latest version of the Stokke stroller.

Anyway, back to buggy fashions. For the first child, the typical Nappy Valley couple goes to Peter Jones and chooses the Bugaboo (latest high-performance ‘Bee’ version, of course, not a second-hand Frog, although I’m hoping these will come back into vogue as vintage offerings when we come to sell ours).

At some point, perhaps when the mother goes back to work, she will realise that, although beautifully designed and ergonomically perfect, the Bugaboo is actually a nightmare to take on the bus, and buy a cheap folding pushchair. Then along comes the second child. The Bugaboo is sold on Ebay and a Phil & Ted's double buggy is purchased.Or, as in our case, the Bugaboo remains in the house on the offchance that we might still use it, and gets in everyone’s way. (It also comes along on holidays, because the Phil & Ted's is just too damn big.) Soon, buggies of all shapes and sizes are cluttering up the house. No wonder we lose track of where they are….

You might think I am exaggerating, but when it comes to buggies, the locals here are birds of a feather, and in general there really are only two labels. Everywhere in Nappy Valley that there are kids, you can spot the rows of identical Bugaboos and Phil & Teds' – the other brands stand out like sore thumbs, though I'm sure some of us secretly applaud these parents' stab at originality.

But now I think I have spotted a new trend - the other day, I saw a woman shopping in the local Iceland with a Bugaboo. Like Burberry before it, the brand has been adopted by the masses and is becoming chav chic; no more proof is needed. It's only a matter of time before Argos will be selling them at a discount......