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Photo by Jim Linwood

For many years now I have felt faintly embarrassed by living statues. Not just for myself, but also for them – it’s no way to make a living, standing almost motionless for hours dressed up as a metallic Grecian statue or Charlie Chaplin in the cold and wet. I can see that the better ones probably spend hours applying their face paint and designing their clothes, and that some of them are, yes, actually quite visually clever. I know that most of them are probably out-of-work actors who don’t fancy waiting tables, and some possibly even talented mime artists. But the truth is, I don’t much care. They get in my way when I’m trying to speed-walk from Marks & Spencer to Paperchase in Covent Garden as quickly as possible.

And the hordes of unbelievably easily-amused spectators (or idiots as I like to call them) who gather round them – well surely they’re worse? Actually to stop and look and possibly even pay money to someone who is merely, erm standing still?

Perhaps the worst thing about living statues is the way they signify you are in a particular kind of hellish tourist zone, along with branches of Garfunkels, racks of postcards of Princess Diana and casual pickpockets.

It’s not just living statues I have previously been irrationally prejudiced against though. It’s any kind of street entertainer. Jugglers. Fire-eaters. Ventriloquists. People who do weird things with string and wire and perform magic tricks – in short anyone who looks like they got buzzed out by Amanda Holden on the last series of Britain’s Got Talent.

However, as with most things in life, all that has changed along with the arrival of my son. The other day on the South Bank I found myself wilfully steering him towards – yes towards! – a rather grizzled-looking juggling fire eater (two pet hates in one), and I finally became part of the gurning touristy crowd I had avoided all these years. ‘Look at that man over there eating fire,’ I found myself saying too loudly in the manner of embarrassing mums everywhere. ‘Isn’t it amazing?’ And you know what? It was amazing. Amazing to see my uncynically awestruck toddler’s face as he witnessed – for the first time ever in his entire life – a street entertainer doing something weird and wonderful and, yes, totally pointless. And amazing to have a couple of moments of peace that didn’t involve a bribe and a biscuit.

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This blog is currently dedicated to stuff new mummies like. As opposed to stuff mummies of teenagers like. That's because we don't have teenagers yet. Give us a few years though. We're told it goes pretty quickly...

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