A new parent’s greatest fear

Being on paternity leave has meant little time for the usual lunchtime run, so there is some pleasure to be had at being back at work and heading out for half an hour at lunchtime to wake myself up after a night of feeding the boy.

There’s a stark contrast between the possibility of walking out the front door with nothing more than a pair of trainers, shorts and a T-shirt, and trying to get out of the house with a child, a pram and all the necessary paraphernalia just to go to the post office. It’s why we love to run – it needs nothing except our two feet and the open road. Merely getting to the end of the street with spare nappies, bottle, blankets, hats, etc is more akin to a journey to Scott’s One Ton Camp than going for a gentle stroll.

We have managed to walk around Clapham Common almost every day since mother and son returned from hospital, and each time we come back down the steep slope north of the Common, the pram ahead of us, I am reminded of the scene from Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin. You know the one. The pram teeters at the top of the steps, the mother is shot by the encroaching guards. As the pram starts to make its descent, the baby seated inside appears to reach forwards with both arms, helplessly. A parent’s greatest fear – to watch the danger unfold but be impotent to do anything about it.

It is a scene that has inspired some of the great film-makers and artists of the 20th century. The finale of Godfather Part III, on the steps of the Opera House, is a direct reference.

And the screaming nanny was used by Francis Bacon in his Study after Velazquez’s Portrait of Pope Innocent X, her mouth open not only in sexual gratification, but also in the kind of pain that is beyond all language.

When Tom Cruise was living in London to film Eyes Wide Shut he was regularly photographed running around Hyde Park pushing a pram. I think we are still some way off that – co-ordination not being a forte of mine – but as the great British cyclist Tom Simpson might have said, it is ‘something to aim at’. At least the paths there are nice and flat.

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About Robin Harvie

I have been running marathons for ten years. But when I couldn't around faster than 3 hours 12 minutes, I decided to see how far I could run before I keeled over. Turns out pretty far. In September 2009 I took on the Spartathlon - 152 miles from Athens to Sparta. Non stop. Why We Run is about that journey and about why we run at all.
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2 Responses to A new parent’s greatest fear

  1. George says:

    And of course the train station scene near the end of the Untouchables. I think the Simpsons have also put Maggie in a wayward perambulator too… and more recently a truly awful advert for some pointless supermarket item (probably washing powder, thankfully now taken off air). Ohh, the downward spiral of an thought from the originality of high-art, through popular-art to the dross of commercial art…

    • Robin Harvie says:

      And I think the day you posted this the millionth re-run of The Untouchables was shown. I will have to track down the washing powder ad, unless it has been canned for life as The Utterly Unwatchable (or should that be unwashable).

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