Tag Archives: primary school

Hold on, We’re going home

I spent my whole childhood and adulthood living in West London, save 5 years at uni in Liverpool, in fact I only moved out of the area when I was 37. It is my home, my place, my familiar.

My mum and I started off in the area housed in bedsits in Paddington, I was 18 months old and my mum was a lone parent at the age of 23. Westbourne Gove and Queensway weren’t the cafe strewn Daylesford organic destination they are now. It was grotty hotels and a little down at heel but the area has always had quite a stunning mix of very wealthy and very poor residents. See the multi million pound houses for sale in Blenheim Crescent that lead onto those gorgeous private gardens you glimpsed in Richard Curtis’ Nottinghill and then remember the council housing estates at the end of  the same road.

And it was into one of these council blocks that my mum and I moved for our first ever proper home. Flat 152 (floor 15, flat 2) Grenfell Tower, Lancaster Road, W11, the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea. We moved into our flat as soon as the building was completed but the greens at the base of the tower block were still rubble and the landscaping continued for a while after we arrived. It was big and shiny and new, all 23 floors of it. Our flat was one of two on the far right hand corner when you exited the lift. From the windows we could see what was to be one of my primary school, St Clements. My orignal primary school St James burnt down when in was 9 so we were all moved to first Avondale and then portakabins in the playground of St Clements, which has since closed. Far in the distance you could see Holland Park, Portobello Road and the old BBC TV Centre in Shepherds Bush, though as hard as I tried I just couldn’t see the Blue Peter Garden. Don’t worry though, I got to see it a few years later on a school trip. Woohoo. Remember when Blue Peter used to do these huge balloon releases, and they had tags attached, if you found one you wrote in and got a prize? I used to watch those but never found a balloon.

Grenfell Tower was a lovely community, my mum made friends, I made friends, it was clean and safe, though that wasnt the rumour in the neighbour hood. Believe it or not the milk man used to deliver to all the flats. That stopped after a couple of years for rather unsavoury reason I believe.We had a two bedroom flat and for the first few months all we had a rocking chair and a mattress to adorn it, very minimalist, but after my grandma gave us some money we also got a sofa and a cooker – fancy huh!

We were exceptionally high up but our neighbour, Bob, used to clean windows in the block and my mum would always hide in the bathroom as she couldn’t bear watching him clinging to the outside of the building while he washed and cleaned. Nothing fazed him, remarkable really, but obviously something that would never be allowed to happen now.

We were burgled once, poor fools, we had absolutely nothing for them to take so instead they ripped up every singular one of my mum’s photos into tiny irreparable pieces. This was in the 1970s, the days with out back up disk of pics, if you didn’t have the negatives then bye bye photos. That is why there is not one singe baby picture of me. The police told us that the burglars were clearly pissed off and decided to ransack and ruin the place instead, but honestly who burgles the flat of a single mum in a tower block, what were they expecting, jewels?

We had made friends with a lady and her daughter who were on the 7th floor and I remember being invited for a birthday tea  but of course my mum had no money to buy a gift so we found the smartest looking of my Ladybird books to give as  gift. I remember to this day being very sad as I loved each and every one of my books but needs must. No one living there had any money, that’s just the way it was.

There were a few fires while we lived there, basically people setting fire to the rubbish chute which ran from the top of the building to the bottom, ending in big bins at the bottom. I remember my mum bundling me up in a duvet and carrying me down the 15 floors in the middle of the night and we would stand outside with all the other pyjamaed residents while the fire brigade did the necessary.

Despite being such a new building the lifts, 2 of them, were frequently out of order and my mum suffered from quite bad back problems, still does to this day, and she sensibly decided that carrying a child and/or shopping up and down 15 floors was going to do nothing to ease her pain so she applied to the local housing association for a ground floor flat and we were given one, down the road, near the Elgin Pub, anyone remember that place? and just off the Nottinghill Carnival Route.

And that where we remained for many happy years. We moved in there in time to celebrate my 5th birthday. Did we miss Grenfell Tower, yes we did. I have only happy memories of living there and now it is all gone. My mother woke me up on the morning of the fire to tell me it had happened. I was shocked and desperately saddened, all those people, all those children, one stair case. It really doesn’t bear thinking about.

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Me and my mum lyrics home london rain

I rarely return to the area these days, I moved out to Buckinghamshire when I was pregnant 7 years ago and I work near Euston but yesterday I returned to Holland Park to see my dentist. I am completely dental phobic and refused to move from the chap who has looked after my teeth for the last 30 years. As I walked down the avenue, loving the leafy trees and reminiscing I knew I would eventually view the tower, I searched the skyline as I crossed each road and finally there it was, a black smudged shell. You could see the day light streaming through the smashed window and out the other side, it was a shocking sight and I can only imagine how terrifying it had been for all involved. My mum won’t go and see it though she wants to pay her respects, it is too much for her.

I couldn’t think of anything to do to help, practical donations of clothes and food had flooded in, to help those who needed assistance, thankfully. But I did see that there were T shirts available to buy where the proft went towards a fund for the victims, so I ordered one. See Lulu in the main picture wearing it, and below.

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All profits from t -shirt sales go to residents 

If you would like to buy one they are £10 plus postage each and available online at http://www.love4.london  All profits goes to the residents affected.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’ll be there for you

Ah, friends, as in the people, not the TV show. It was always such a big deal in youth to have lots of them wasn’t it? It was a sign of being popular, which in turn was a sign of being worthy I suppose, in our own twisted adolescent minds. Now, I have spent most of my life feeling painfully shy but as time has gone on people I meet and old friends seem astonished that I feel this way because I am very chatty, able to talk to complete strangers – shout out to the lady on my commute last week who told me her lipstick was Mac Ruby woo when I completed her on it! – and generally able to hold my own so I have started to think that maybe I’m not as shy as I thought, who knew?? But I digress.

Friends. I don’t have loads of them, but I have enough of them, its quality not quantity. I am lucky enough to have friends from my primary school, my secondary school and from university. Each of them a reminder of those periods in my life, people who share my memories. This has become more and more important to me as I have got older. I think it’s because I like myself more and I can look back on my youth with the luxury of hindsight and think , you know what, you did okay out there in the big bag world all alone at 18, and things that used to make me cringe when I recollect them, don’t anymore, I’ve given my younger self a break. So now, instead of comparing myself to others and thinking I don’t measure up to peers I enjoy the catch us, the reminiscing. This train of thought has been sparked by my bestest friend from uni returning to the UK for a few weeks jolly from Australia where she lives with her partner and 2 gorgeous little boys. We were thick as thieves at uni, in Liverpool, where we met as we were on the same corridor in the halls of residence, we got drunk, a lot, danced, a lot, and had loads of fun. We drifted apart a bit, we had long term boyfriends, she got a proper job, I faffed about with my part time MA, then moved back to London when I’d completed. She stayed in Liverpool to do her PhD and then she and her partner emigrated to Aus, where she founded and runs super successful publishing house, is there no stopping this woman??? We’ve kept in touch via Facebook, which is really rather passive isn’t it but still a great way to keep up with peoples news but here she was going to be in the UK in the flesh and she would see me in the flesh, much different to my uni days, not helped by being so sick, and hideously bloated – honestly I could fit 2 of my uni days me into my current body. I realise that I may sound hideously vain but there you go, anyway I warned her I didn’t look great but said meeting would be super.  And you know what? It bloody was, I’ve been on a natural high since our supper together. We compared notes, we discussed our lives, as much as you can with a 6 year old in ear shot – I took Lulu with me as I wanted them to meet. And I remembered how much I loved my wonderful friend and why we had been friends for such a long time. It was a timely reminder that I am incredibly lucky in my life, in so many ways, and that despite being basically a social hermit for the last couple of years I can sill hold a decent conversation. Go me!

 

Heigh ho heigh ho its off to (primary) school she goes

Having a baby was a long old slog for me and my soon to be ex husband, the getting pregnant bit was easy, it was keeping the babies alive that was hard.  Anyway, that’s for another time. So now here I am, the mother of a sprightly four year old little girl. I named her Lucia and I call her Lulu but now she keeps telling me her name is Lucia, nice huh?

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I went back to work when she was ten months old and she went off to full time nursery, I didn’t feel guilty (but I did feel guilty about not feeling guilty). She loved it, in fact she cried every time I picked her up. Then she went through a phase of crying when I dropped her off, that was in the months after my husband left, I really hated him, not for hurting me but for hurting her. For the first time ever I sat in my car in the nursery car park and sobbed. She was insecure and clinging for a long time, she hadn’t really been a very cuddly child until then, but I enjoyed the cuddles, so silver linings and all. Thank fully she is now back to her old self and runs through the nursery doors without even a goodbye kiss

In a few months she will be off to ‘big school’, OMG. What if they ruin her? what if she hates it? Will I be held to ransom by the evil holiday companies charging the earth for breaks during school holidays?

I’m a little sad that I will no longer be able to take a day off work and keep her home with me just so we can have fun on a week day, ‘the man’ will make her go to school all week and our fun will be reserved for the weekends. I also feel a bit sad that I wont be dropping her off or collecting her, commuting to London, full time job etc. I always loved seeing my mum waiting at the school gates at the end of the day and walking to school with her is a good memory for me. I try and hold onto those  memories on the days my mum is driving me mental with all her unwanted parenting ‘advice’. Its hard.

But the first hurdle is getting Lulu into the local primary school. My mouth dropped open when I viewed the school in our catchment and was told that the intake for Lulu’s year was eight places. Eight places? what? So fingers crossed she gets in and then I can concentrate on worrying about all the above. I want her to be independent and confident and happy but it feels a little bit like she is slipping a little bit further away from me, like the first time she crawled, when she literally was slipping out of my arms and across the living room floor. I know its the next stage in her growing up and I really want that to happen but since I won’t be having anymore children it feels very final.

Ps I found out on Thursday that she got into the local primary school. Hooray.