It was Great Big Screamy Cinema day today, so I decided to preface the fun with my usual route march into town. This should take about an hour at a reasonably brisk pace, so I generally choose to leave 50 minutes before the film is due to begin, just to add a frisson of panic to the whole thing. There are two possible routes: either straight down Cowley Road all the way, which involves bumping Lumpy over some wonderfully uneven pavements and kerbs, and throwing ourselves into the paths of kamikaze buses and taxis, or alternatively on a cycle path that runs behind one of the local paths. The second is generally preferable, though there are parts of the path that irresistibly remind me of the lonely mugger's alleys you see on Crime Watch as the last place the young mother was seen alive. I grant that this is slightly melodramatic, given that Oxford is not the murder capital of the Western world (Morse notwithstanding), but I have a vivid imagination, so bear with me.
As I was racing along the most mugger-friendly section of the path, complete with convenient ditch to dump the victim's body in, I spotted a dark figure lurking in the undergrowth. It was what I understand is usually described as a 'yoof', complete with hooded top and baseball cap (why there is a need for both of these head coverings, I fail to understand), trousers at half mast, and a general threatening air about him. I upped my pace, until Lumpy's cheeks began to flap with the g-force. Just as we were about to streak past said yoof, he stepped out from the undergrowth and into our path. I skidded to a halt, images of the newspaper reports of my grisly death flashing through my brain. Could I lob Lumpy to safety across the ditch and over a fence into someone's garden, I wondered, as we skidded to a halt.
"Well," said the yoof, smiling (no doubt as he contemplated which bit of me to dismember first). "That's the closest I've ever been to..."
What? What?! Exposing myself on a lonely pathway? Committing a violent mugging on a whim? Mutilating a mother and child for a laugh?
"A squirrel!" he finished with a grin, jerking his head towards the undergrowth. My quaking eyes looked across, and there, indeed, was a fuzzy-tailed tree rat, nibbling on a nut.
Words failed me at this point, so I just made a noise like 'ahhhhmmmff', whilst attempting a strangled smile. Mr Squirrel Fancier seemed satisfied with this, and went merrily on his way, humming the tune from Snow White (possibly), and leaving no dismemberment in his wake.
After staring briefly at the close-approached squirrel, we continued on our way, somehow making it to the cinema unmolested by man or rodent. We were having lunch with one of our mummy chums afterwards, because that's what us lazy child-rearing types do all day. Having filled my own greedy gullet with giant pizzas, I decided it was Lumpy's turn for a munch, and proceeded to whip out the boob. The restaurant was fairly quiet, it being about 3.45pm, when most normal people are at work, so I didn't bother using my feeding guard (this sounds as if it is something highly technical involving metal and dials, but is actually just a large shawl that I bundle Lumpy under to wrestle with him while I blindly poke him in the eye and nose with my nipple. It makes me look like I have a giant, extremely animated boob, and is, of course, utterly useless for breastfeeding. But great for entertainment purposes).
A few minutes into the feed, the elderly couple who had been sitting at a table near us got up and came over. I was looking down at Lumpy to see whether he was about to projectile vomit all over the table, so I didn't really notice them at first. The only thing I heard was 'breastfeeding' and 'in public'. I automatically filled in the gaps, assuming that the man was berating me, and was about to loudly and angrily assert my right to get my baps out wherever I damn well wanted to, when I realized what he'd actually said was:
"It's wonderful to see a mother breastfeeding in public."
I luckily managed to chock my expletives back and smile Virgin and Child-ishly back at him instead.
"It's really wonderful," he repeated. "The most beautiful, natural thing. Well done." And he and his wife walked out, beaming approvingly at us.
So there you go. Humankind are largely sweet, kind, squirrel-bothering, breast-approving individuals, and not boob-hating murderers. How very reassuring.