Wednesday, 10 August 2011

I Heart London but it's a little broken

I am a Londoner but I don't live there anymore. My family started with a kiss on Clapham Common, I shopped with my mother in Croydon, teenaged in Brixton, many of the people I love still live there. London will always be in my heart because it started beating there.

Seeing pictures of it burnt out, people frightened, ugly scenes of riot shields and crowds running amok took me right back. Right back to being a child when loud voices outside the house could be the riots spreading into our street and when a neighbour invited my mother out on a trip to join in the looting. Brixton was a few miles away but the fear spread across South London, I was the kind of child that worried and imagined the worst would erupt at any moment, I used to lay in bed worrying about German bombers FFS.

Brixton gradually got better, became buzzier in a good way, people started to see it as cool. But i'm not sure people's lives really changed or that the problem got sorted. deprivation and trouble moved elsewhere, further out to places that lacked vibrancy, facilities and access to the things that make living in London great. South London has always had a moody edge, i'm just surprised it has taken this long to finally erupt.

And so it erupts and I feel sad and anxious for many reasons. That life is only going to get tougher, people poorer and the streets more dangerous, that division and racism will rear their ugly heads. I'm still that worrier , on a bad day my visions resemble armaggedon. Now I worry for my children and what the future of Britain will hold for the young. Whatever happens our world is changing. Wether or not it descends into increased deprivation and violence depends on how we change with it. There are enough resources, knowledge, and love to go round and now is the time to share it.

I am a londoner and watching it burn was heartbreaking. I am English and I am terrified as I watch the flames spread. My family is made of different races, we share cultures and wisdoms and are richer for it. At the moment I feel pretty bleak but in these times we turn to family and I hope that as a society we defend and mend our communities together, wherever our hearts started beating.

On a lighter note, Lewes is quietly middle class as usual, but i'm now worrying about bonfire night....

Monday, 1 August 2011

A Perfect Day (for muck spreading)

Status update No. 1: Our glorious summer trip begins with a drive to the Lavender Railway, for billowing steam and a vintage style picnic by the tracks. I'm having a good hair day, my coral clog sandals and 40's inspired dress add to the vintage feel of the adventure. We hop back into the car and our frolicsome four head off to find an archeological dig. They've unearthed a Roman bathhouse and we can't wait to see the golden mosaic tiles, They have activities for our little Ceaser too! And then to the river for a cooling glass of alcoholic ginger beer after posing by the Edsel for our friends on facebook to coo over upon our return. Much river rambling later and we return to Lewes for supper at the Grange. A leek and goats cheese frittata made with the leftovers from last weeks shop. As the heat of the sun fades we amble back to our bijou abode, holding hands as George skips ahead and Pearl sings in the pram, blackberry stains on her golden curls. As we lay in bed later that night with the smell of the countryside through the open window we cannot stop laughing...
Who the hell are we trying to kid. I laugh so hard I think I will stop breathing....Another day with the Porters and we are delirious. The smell through the window is manure, so pungent you can literally smell the shit.
I've been laying it on with a trowel here, did you notice?

Status update mark two: The day begins and the four of us squash into the Ford Fiesta. Ignoring the carpet of crisps underfoot I imagine the Lavender railway, sitting pretty on upholstered carriage seats as the Sussex countryside rolls by. The budget packed lunch of pickled gherkins and peanut butter sandwiches won't matter as a suited guard clips our tickets. Why oh why after 40 years of life do I still insist on imaging the world through rose tinted retro glasses. For a pessimist I have a fabulous imagination. The Orient express it is not. Not even a carriage awaits and we board what can only be described as a cattle truck that may have been used in a film about Nazi Germany. The seats are torn and people try to smile as they peer through the bars, sooty steam blowing back into their faces. The staff are lovely but it's all about the engines and I feel as though I have been invited into my grandad's shed. I try not to sulk but I can't help it. I am that teenager on a family trip, only this time it's my family and I am responsible for this error of judgement. I pull myself together and have to admit that the billow of the steam is impressive, I grit my teeth as we travel backwards and forwards along a short piece of track. We find a little bench and unpack our lunch. We try to be philosophical about the smell of the countryside until we realise that the stench is a leaking nappy and we head to the car for an emergency trip home. A change of outfit is paramount.

We will not be deterred. The Archeaolgical dig awaits. It boasts stalls, activities, a peep at the Roman remains and it's free! My obsessive use of Twitter is at last justified!
In short, it's a pile of rubble. I kick myself for believing the hype as we walk back to the car. All that dust hasn't done my coral clogs any favours. The river is indeed beautiful, but there is only so much relaxation to be done with a kamikaze toddler in tow, I notice that romantic types are kissing behind the reeds and calculate that canoodling by the riverbed cannot be done without babysitters for about twelve years. To the trusty pub, an iced alcoholic ginger beer can never disappoint, not even the wasps put me off. They have stopped serving chips and dinner looms as a disorganised mess. It's ok I chirp, I have goats cheese, leeks and eggs at home, we can picnic at the Grange. A tantrum ensues , it is never wise to shortchange George on a promise of chips.

As I chop the leeks I feel bohemian and spontaneous on this summers evening. Until I open the fridge and realise we are out of milk. I carry the omelette mess in a tiffin tin with a bottle of wine and the rest of the gherkins to the Grange, in my quest for the perfect summer's day I will not be beaten. Halfway through our picnic we are advised that the grounds will be closing early due to an open air play. I am galled that I did not see this advertised, I bet it would have been fantastic . sitting on a travel rug, hamper full of..... Oh Michelle listen to yourself. You get cramp and eaten alive by midges.
Wake up and smell the muck speading. There is rarely such a thing as a perfect day however much we spin our status updates. But where there's muck there's a laugh and I haven't had such a hoot in ages.