Charlotte Philby's Parental Leave: My mum tried to engage our reluctant Nigerian taxi driver in political debate

A mother's weekly dispatch from the pre-school frontline'
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The Independent Online

It is a balmy September afternoon and I am on a mobility bus surrounded by very old people, gliding through the departure lounge at Gatwick's South Terminal. Four hours from now I will be in the Arctic. Just me, my broken foot, and my mum. I should be travelling alone – for work, you see. But because I haven't got the balls to tell the new client who has commissioned me to write about my travels on a remote ferry system that a) I am terrified of any body of water deeper than a bath and b) that I have spent the past six days high on Tramadol staring at a blank wall, I have instead opted to pay for my mum to come along to help.

So far, all is going well. My mum appears to be excited. Following a taxi ride in which she tried to engage our reluctant Nigerian driver in a debate about African politics, we ended up in the wheelchair collection office where she breezily suggested to the beautifully effeminate young man behind the desk that, owing to the room's stifling heat, we might one day walk in to find him in his bikini.

For my part, I am wistful. Just a couple of hours since leaving my husband, shell-shocked, at the front door, I am already beginning to miss the kids. This will be the first time I've left the 11-month-old for more than a day. I'm deep in thought when a voice says, "Excuse me, I think we're sitting next to you". I look up to find a woman with a small baby strapped to her chest, and a toddler pulling at my crutches. Just then, my mum leans over from the aisle in front: "Did you know that Tromso is the gay capital of Norway?!"