The Aspirational Luddite

By Marcus Abel

“Morning Mr A,” says the lad behind the coffee counter.

“Peter, how are you?” I say, recognising the young lad who used to wash the wife’s Clio.

“Wouldn’t expect to see you in a place like this,” says Peter.

“I’m not supposed to be here, our Janice was taken sick and I’m having to look after little Kayleigh.”

I’m in a huge factory building, where, once upon a time useful things would’ve been made. Now it’s full of large foam shapes covered in sick resistant plastic, netting, slides, bazookas for the military minded and masses of screaming kids. This is soft play.

There’s almost as many adults as kids. There always seems to be a few dads who are keener on working their way round the caged construction than their toddlers – they so often end up baying at the crying tykes as they refuse to go through a tunnel or leap on a Tarzan swing. Then there’s the parents who turn up push their kids in one direction and make certain that their face stays in the other direction – interacting with a friend, a tablet, a phone.

“You enjoy working with kids?” I ask Peter.

“The kids are alright it’s the parents that are the problem,” he says.

He motions to a group of mums outside the entrance. They all have bare tattooed arms, a superking in their mouth and half of them are sporting unfettered flabby stomachs – in October! Shouting such pleasantries as, “I’m just having another fag Jezebel”. Having brought their little angels to this play palace surely they deserve a natter and a chance to smoke fags an’ that.

g3“The Tatts and Brats brigade I call them.” I quip to Peter.

“That’s very good Mr A – I like that.” Peter says.

“There’s only six of them so they can’t be a brigade – I call that size of congregation a shudder. Yes, a shudder of Tatt’n’Bratts.”

“I’m going to put that on Twitter – if you don’t mind Mr A,” says Peter, taking a picture of the ‘shudder’ with his phone.

“You do what you like Peter, thanks for the tea.”

Kayleigh’s spent forty minutes in a cage and I’ve had a nice cuppa.

“You’re tatts ‘n’ brats comment is trending. Shall I take that cup away?” says Peter.

“Thank you Peter. Trending?” I enquire.

“It’s popular in cyber space – the virtual world.” Peter says shuffling away.

As we leave there’s a bit of a fracas going off with the T’n’B’s. They’re shouting about whose taken their photo and tweeted it. Kayleigh and I make a break for it.

I return home after a stiffener in the local.

“What have you done? Peter popped over you’ve started a Twitterstorm. Those harridans from mumsnet have you on their most wanted list,” says the alarmed wife.

“Calm down, I’ve done nothing.” I say.

“You’ve offended a lot of people – this is a real problem,” she says.

“I think you’ll find it’s just a virtual problem. A quibble in cyber space. Now I’m off to my study,” I state.