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Class Monitor No.2: Buggy mom

I want a coffee but I can't get one. There are women everywhere in the café, wealthy women wearing expensive clothes in the hues of autumn and accompanied by giant metal machines that are equipped with trail-bike tyres and space-shuttle safety harnesses. The machines contain small, red-faced children screaming for things.

The size of the machines and the noise of the toddlers in effect block my access to the serving area, where a whey-faced barista in a black shirt dotted with milk dreams of her boyfriend back in Bratislava. I am in East Dulwich, south London, and witness to a new army on the march, an army whose ranks swell with each increase in the birth rate.

These are the buggy moms, middle-class women who have had their children late in life. They spent the early Noughties caring about nothing else but themselves and, to a degree, that is still what they are like.

They are not going to let me through - not because they don't like me or how I look, but simply because I do not exist. They now do not acknowledge the existence of anything other than the thing in the buggy and the other buggy moms. Such a gathering can be seen in most of the better-off parts of our capital and in Bristol, Cheshire, Harrogate and Edinburgh. But in this particular coffee bar, the buggy moms seem to have taken on a militant demeanour. The buggies are bigger, the babies are noisier, and the self-satisfaction is more intense.

Across the world, millions of women get pregnant and have babies, often in the most difficult circumstances, where coffee - or milk, or food, or shelter and medical care - is not available. East Dulwich is less difficult. This is colour-supplement breeding, and - like the buggy moms' outfits - everything matches. Even the husbands.

One of these husbands has been tied into an ethnic blanket that contains another child. Judging by his age and the age of the woman who greets him with a firm but uninvolved kiss, they have been through IVF in order to create the accessory that now hangs from his chest. He wears the haunted look of a man who has spent time in fertility clinic cubicles with a copy of Club International and a jam jar. At that time he must have thought he had reached the limits of indignity. But no, he had further to fall. Look at him now . . . he's become Papoose Pop.

Michael Hodges writes the Class Monitor column for the New Statesman. He was named columnist of the year at the 2008 Magazine Design and Journalism Awards for his contributions to Time Out.

This article first appeared in the 05 October 2009 issue of the New Statesman, The tories/the people