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Sun and Son - Bristol Park Life

The Unhitched Wagon Series

There is no place more affected by weather than England. Not only is it a part of everyday conversation but life itself revolves around the weather – it’s all doom and gloom until the sun comes out. The rarity of sunshine means upon its appearance all of life’s plans can be, and are abandoned. Suddenly the t-shirts come off and pale flesh comes out. The coats are left behind (temporarily) and everybody migrates to the parks to soak up the rays and increase their Vitamin D stores like desperate squirrels storing acorns for the winter.

On these sunny days the park looks like a festival – hundreds of people in the same small place, gathered on the grass listening to music, reading and cooking vegetarian sausages on disposable BBQs. There is stay at home mums and dads, nannies, the unemployed and students scattered across the grass. The agile are hula hooping, the hippies banging on bongo drums and smoking splifs. Before long school is out and children also come flooding in, suddenly the peace and quiet turns to yells of frivolity and shrieks of excitement – bescootered kids scootering, balls catapulting towards you. Everyone is lapping up life in the sun there is a distinct aroma 30+ sunscreen and euphora in the air. Even the occasional dad in a business suit will arrive to meet the family at the park for some daddy and kid bonding time if the sun is high after business hours are over. Everyone is overcome with clinical jubilation; they forget their misery and smile.

On a sunny day me and my fellow part-time employed friend lie out on the nice, green English grass and work on our tans and sun screen applications respectively. Spending our afternoon reading books, doing the crossword, drinking coffee and eating baguettes with pesto and generally acting like the ladies of leisure we are. Sometimes reading and chatting gives way to lying on the picnic rug and watching the people and then making up stories and generally judging our fellow park goers for their life decisions, or rather, their alleged life decisions.
My local park lies just off the UK’s longest independent high street in a veritable melting pot of Bristolian society, a park forming a cusp between the neighbourhoods of the hippies, hobos and students and middle-class families. These neighbourhoods are made up of double income families and grown-up hippies rearing the kind of children that eat soya margarine, sushi and hummus and who are ‘expressing themselves’ when they stamp their feet and have a hissy fit.

The park is also a natural habitat of the local “yummy mummies” which is what they I believe they refer to themselves as. They roam around the city park between 3-4:30, socialising, judging, and social climbing, oh and picking their kids up and giving them a post-school run-a-round the park. It’s a ‘be seen’ type environment. We sit from our picnic rug and observe, staying quiet so as to not startle them. The ‘yummy mummies’ are the ones who have their shit together, they have probably just come from a quick Zumba class or coffee date with the girlfriends. They might be in their designer gym gear or something that says ‘I’m a mum, but I’m still hot’, some casual high street fashions. They are all pushing expensive strollers that are aerodynamic, turn into space ships as the child develops and have a compartment to cure a ham. Roughly the size of a Smart car.

As they mingle you quickly get to see the social circles form, the cream rises. Obviously there is a small window to prove yourself before little Felix and Tolly have to get off their scooter and get to tennis practice. The yummiest mummiest of the yummy mummies are drawn to each other to chat about Quinoa and the need for 3 year olds to learn Mandarin. These ones are obviously affluent and work from home or have home help. Then there is the rung below, who have the opportunity should they play their cards right, to integrate with the upper echelons. These yummy mummies are nearly there, they are working a lot harder, there’s no time for a Yoga class but they could probably juggle a few things and meet for coffee. These ones went home and got changed before coming to do the school run. Have thrown together a casual ensemble that says, ‘no I’ve been wearing this all day’. If you look closely you can see the few flyaway hairs pointing to signs of distress and panic leading up to that school pick up.

Then you have a third category around the external perimeter. They are a hot mess, trying hard, they probably work or are full-time mums or both. They are doing the right thing, doing the after school park socialise, the kids are in Kung Foo and Yoga for Kids classes but they are a hot mess. They attempt to penetrate the circles. They just do not cut the mustard in a sundress and runners and unkempt hairstyle. They have pulled on a pair of pants over a pair of leggings and the leggings are hanging out underneath. This will not do. That is not living up to the yummy mummy code, no visible signs of exhaustion or despair are permitted. They are trying not to scream as Sam the little shit is ignoring polite requests and is zooming passed on his scooter and Florence is pulling off the heads of the daffodils. How unkempt.
This awkward hour of mingling and trying to casually drop in on conversation, make new friends, set up play dates and generally impress fellow mums soon ends with jiu-jitsu classes and guitar lessons to get to and before long they all disperse leaving us park dwellers to get back to sunning ourselves and not eavesdropping and judging others.

Suddenly it’s not as fun and its getting dark, the sun is setting. Some families arrive bringing their dinner to the park for some al fresco dining, some couscous salad and wraps. On plates. No fish and chips, on the newspaper in these parts.
I think of runners and sundress lady as I wander home. Wondering if she goes home to her husband and says, “no honey, not today, little Florence will have to play with the poor kids for another week”. She looks hopelessly in her cupboard and says, “Do you mind if I spend ₤100 on some lycra running leggings? Jennifer Smythly-Finch was wearing them at the park and she’s lost all her baby weight in 6 days drinking smoothies of wheatgrass and elephant semen and she swears by them. I also overheard her telling the others that if your children are not watching Human Planet documentaries and eating micro-greens they will probably be bad at maths and you may as well teach them how the plumbing works now. Get a head start. Do you think we should get Sam a tutor? Or change his name to something more hip like Erkin? Maybe I should enrol him in a Business for Tots class, I think he has strong entrepreneurial skills, I saw him steal a football and try and sell it back today. I think he’s got a head for business…”

The sun sets and with some luck it will rise high above the clouds again tomorrow so we can continue to speculate on the intricate lives and social cliques of yummy mummys.

NB. In actuality, since this Spring heatwave it has rained constantly and it has been 3 months since we have last tuned into our favourite park soap opera, when the sun returns I am expecting eye patches, evil twins and at least one scandalous affair.

Posted by The Tipsy Gipsy 11:05 Archived in United Kingdom Tagged park summer sun soap_opera bristol gossip yummy_mummies

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jennifer smythley-finch is a friend of mine!

by jenni

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