An army of brand name buggies encircle the tables located in the prime position; equidistant from the parent and child toilet and the mini microwave next to the till. Each is accompanied by a high chair that was, upon entry, acquired by a blonde girl under orders from the tall woman in her late twenties who now waits third from the front of the queue. From this position she employs her best signing skills (picked up and practised to ensure her first born could communicate long before that much anticipated first word) to clarify whether the women want cappuccinos or lattes, skimmed milk or soy.
Sat around the table the other women are already chattering. They pull plastic pots from padded bags and test the temperature of pre prepared bottles as they reply to emails on their iPhones. But the talk never stops. Some share self soothing success stories whilst others offer top teething tips. One dares to enter the debate on controlled crying by detailing her own dilemma. The others avert their eyes. They talk in fragments. All fail to finish sentences as, instead, they are torn away to distribute organic carrot sticks or spoon pouches of purée into gummy mouths. There is a flow of faces as they take it in turns to lift their little ones and traipse to the toilets. On the table a mountain of torn wrappers and used wipes has grown long before the order even arrives.
Looking on are two retired women, weighed down by bags, whose eyes scan the room in search of a seat. A man dressed in a cheap suit stands in the queue and clutches his panini and packet of crisps. It is clear his aim is to avoid meeting anyone’s gaze. Couples huddle along the side of the room and sip their too hot tea as they plan weekends away. Sometimes the women’s eyes can’t help but wander.
And, in the door way, struggles another mother, torn between her desire to pass half an hour in peace and her ever growing desperation to have another adult hear her voice.