MOVING HOUSE

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In one of my earlier posts ‘I’ve got 99 problems but a city ain’t one’ I wrote about whether our family should leave London or not.  I concluded that the pros far outweighed the cons and I talked like we’d never leave.  How things quickly change.

Since my last post we put our East London place up for sale, sold it and have brought a house in Essex (subject to all the legal stuff going through nicely).  So am I a hypocrite? Perhaps, but alas when you have children your decisions change as much as they do.

The decision to leave was a difficult one, different ideas bounced around  like a wandering soul lost in a maze of confusion.
We initially viewed larger properties in our existing area but soon realised that to buy anywhere with enough room for the four of us would require either a win on the Euro lottery or me donning a balaclava and ‘reclaiming’ some of Sir Fred Goodwin’s pension pot from RBS.
There was also the extremely important matter of schools.  In Tower Hamlets like many other London boroughs getting your child into a good school is very hit or miss.  There are more children than schools.  You see new apartments being built all over the borough but no new schools to accompany the influx.  We weren’t prepared to chance Rose’s choice of school being an unsatisfactory one.

We did consider a few areas in South London that were a bit more affordable, but after weighing things up we decided on Brentwood in Essex.  The area of Brentwood that we’ve decided on has great schools which aren’t over subscribed (a major selling point), is surrounded by miles of beautiful woodland and parks, is nearer to the children’s grandparents and is an easy commute into London.  Vicki will be commuting each day and I’ll drive in for my DJ gigs (there goes the drinking) 2 or 3 times a week so it’s not going to be that much of a change.

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Going from an apartment to a house with garden is going to be amazing.  I’ll be able to hide away to read my Sunday newspaper and cook up a storm on my new Aga.  The children are really excited about the move especially the promise of bunk beds.  There’s also talk of a cat, but let’s take this suburban dream / nightmare 😉 ? one step at a time.  Vicki’s already talking about a summer garden party complete with soundsystem so i’m sure the neighbours will love us.

The downside is that it isn’t London, it’s been many years since I’ve lived in a town so will I go out of my mind with boredom? I suppose the last time I lived in a town there was no internet and I didn’t have children.  But let’s be honest, if we were millionaires and could guarantee good schools we wouldn’t be moving from London (it’s the best city in the world!).
The kids might end up with funny accents and it’s where TOWIE is based.  The day that they come home with fake tans is the day we move!

It was an extremely difficult decision to make but we do think it’s in the best interests of the children.  We are near enough to London to be able to take the kids to shows, theatre, exhibitions etc and have the beautiful Essex countryside on our doorstep (as well as the coast not too far away).  So hopefully it’ll be the best of both worlds.  If it all goes pear-shaped we can always move back with our tails between our legs!

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Day at the London Aquarium

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With two pre school children on my hands one on one time is a rarity.  I do my best doubling up on my love, guidance and shouting but nothing beats a bit of one on one.

Last week Rose’s Grandparents (Gabba and Grand-ma-ma) very kindly offered to have her for a few days.  It was a great opportunity for Theo and I to have some boy time.  Get a few beers in, football, pizza.  Well perhaps not, I’ve got a hunch that Theo won’t be into such pursuits.  He’s already regularly seen wearing pink socks and glittery tops!
So instead of being an Alpha-male father and son tag team it was decided to hit central London, ending the day at the Aquarium.

We jumped onto the river boat service from Canary Wharf to Embankment.  Theo was fascinated by the large group of Japanese tourists who jumped on at Tower Bridge, took a million photos then jumped off at the next stop.

Theo finally got a full day of my full attention which felt brilliant and the guilt I often get when I have to also look after Rose was gone.  throughout the day he happily chatted away gibberish and I answered in a similar manner.
We stopped off at my favourite little dumpling place in Chinatown for a quick, spicy energy boost.  An ancient lady who reminds me of ET sits in the window all day rolling her delicious dumplings at manic speed.  The place is a bit wonky around the edges but does lovely home cooked food and as we all know pre packaged / fast food is now akin to playing Russian roulette!  We then got a black bean and sesame roll from the Chinese bakery to keep us going.  The streets were still packed with Chinese New Years decorations, lanterns and dragons stared at us from high above, the latter threatening to blow fire on us at any moment.

Theo’s face told me that his senses were going into overdrive the colourful sights and sounds overloading his small mind.   We walked the back streets towards the BT tower and stopped off near Fitzroy Square for a coffee and Theo’s first introduction to the rather yum Portuguese custard tart.
Wondering back down through Soho I reminisced about hedonistic nights spent as a student and newcomer to this wonderful city.  I felt happy to have these memories but even happier to now be in an older place.

As we walked across the bridge (I think Hungerford) Big Ben struck 4 o’clock.  I thought Theo would be really impressed, but he was more interested in the guy selling dodgy hotdogs.  Sorry Theo that’s a definite no-no!

Outside the London eye street performers put gold into the normally lifeless paving stones.  Gold statues,singers and dancers performed for the tourist herds.  One performer dressed like a comedy satan, was suspended in the air with a walking stick in one hand but nothing else. It looked like he was sitting on a bar stool.  But there was no stool there.  How did he float in the air, I really didn’t know but It was certainly worth the pound that I flipped into his hat.

For myself and Vicki it was £40 entarance fee  into the Aquarium.  Of course I had a wee moan as I often do when it comes to money issues.  At least Theo was free.  I felt sorry for a family in the queue who had about 4 kids.  I think we’ll cross it off our list of possible birthday party venues.

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Once inside Theo was in heaven, the look on his face was worth the £40 alone .  All the usual fishy suspects were there,  as well as the headliners, Sharks and large game fish such as Kingfish and Barracuda.  The penguins didn’t look very happy. They looked like a shamed gang standing outside the headmasters office with their hands in their pockets.  I also didn’t like seeing the majestic turtles slowly swimming in their tank.  They reminded me of the elephants that you see in the Zoo.  Sad looking.

In the aquarium there’s a large open top tank that holds many fish, in particular large rays that seem to be quite tame, they swim along and put their heads right out of the water begging to be touched.  I suddenly noticed that literally every fish in the tank (and there was many) had come over to were we stood.  Wow I’ve got quite a way with fish I thought. But no, it was not my skills as Doctor Doolittle, but rather Theo had dropped his pastry in the tank causing a fish, feeding frenzy.  We slowly shuffled away looking down at the floor whilst whistling.

All in all a lovely day.

I’ve got 99 problems but a city ain’t 1.

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The question ‘Should we leave London?’ arose soon after the arrival of our daughter Rose.  When Theo came the answer seemed obvious.  Of course we have to leave London.   It’s not a good place for children everybody told us.  Children need fields to run around, fresh air etc.  Then there was the crime, overcrowding and lets not even get started on schools.
The panic set in like a Daily Mail reader worrying about immigrants ‘taking our jobs’.  If we stayed in London would our kids end up knife fighting at weekends and rioting during the week?  There was concern.
After the initial panic we sat down, took a deep breath and tried to think things through in a calm and level headed manner.  Why did we come to London in the first place?  Would the way it’s enriched our lives do the same for our children?  Can children and cities co-exist positively?

Upon arriving in London I was immediately blinded by it’s colour and audacity.  A hectic metropolis full of bright lights and shiny takeaway joints. Dixy, Tennessee and Kennedy fried chicken all battling out for business.
I’d never imagined that such a multi-cultural place existed.  I was suddenly surrounded by people of every shade, creed and nationality.  New types of people, language and colour gradually created through an unforseen social experiment.
Global minds, local souls.

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In our area we’re absolutely spoilt for choice when it comes to toddler groups. Each day there’s a different type of group in the morning and afternoon.  Music, sport, play, art etc etc and all free!  The children get to play with children from an array of different cultural / religious backgrounds, all the kids having the time of their lives.

Margaret Thatcher famously said that there was no such thing as society.  She was wrong.  Whether you live in North, South, East or West we are all in a sprawling, filthy, difficult, wondrous mess together, our place, our messed up, vibrant society.  A metropolis made up of a collection of villages, yet joined unusually like Siamese twins who share their vital organs but have different personalities.  The difference between places is amazing, Chiswick has a notably different character than Wood Green and Hoxton is definitely not Peckham.  But difference breeds familiarity.  The Edgware road runs about ten miles from Mable Arch to Edgware, centre to suburbs, connecting three boroughs, and at least 20 identifiable ethnic communities, but it’s all London and we are all Londoners.  Nobody thinks of himself or herself as a Hackneyite etc you live in London, regardless of place, you’re a Londoner, you belong even if only on a temporary basis.  Don’t misunderstand me, in many ways I love Devon (where I’m from), but I’m personally more suited to a place that’s got hundreds of languages, just as many cuisine’s, and probably more problems.

If we were to move for the sake of our children they’d probably move back as soon as they were old enough anyway!
Although after saying all of this, it looks like we are going to sell up and move from Zone 2 to Zone 4 which is almost suburban living.  This isn’t out of choice but rather what can we get for our $.
Of course it’s all about personal choice, perhaps by writing this i’m trying to convince myself that i’m making the correct decision.  City living with children will bring up many challenges such as the school issue but we’ll deal with them as they arise and as long as the kids are happy it’s all good.

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New years eve to seagulls in one swoop

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This is my first ever post in my first ever blog. Last night whilst thinking about starting a blog, millions of words anxiously begged to be let out. Now finally ready to write, they’ve made a hasty retreat back into the depths of safety.

I’ll put finger to keyboard and see where it leads.

New years eve has come and gone and for the second year running i awoke on new years day with no hangover.  Gone are the days when new years eve consisted of doing a gig, drinking as much as possible, doing another then going on to an after party in a dark, smoky warehouse dancing till dawn.  On the plus side there’s no waking up full of remorse and regret.

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Hangovers and children are not a good mix and never will be.  Luckily this year I got offered an early gig (8pm-11pm) which was ideal.  Vicki came to meet me with a couple of friends and come 12 o’clock we were out on the street looking at Big Ben and the wonderful fireworks.  They lit up the sky like Baghdad and left a smell like a smouldering match factory.  We might’ve stayed in the venue where i was djing, but after my last tune which was Ray Charles’s ‘i’ve got a woman’ the next DJ started straying into David Guetta territory which was our cue to leave.

After toasting the new year with a bottle of champange drunk out of plastic cups we headed to Ronnie Scotts jazz club where a friend of ours and were treated to complimentary entry n drinks.

We were back home by about 4am which for NYE is very sensible.

We enjoyed a relaxing late breakfast before picking up the kids from their Uncle and Aunts house.

So today is day one, back to reality after the Xmas break.  Vicki was back to work and I was back to trying to keep kaos to a minimum.  I’ve already forgot to re book Theo’s injections but we did manage to get to the library and returned the late books.  The Twinkle Twinkle book along with the TV remote went AWOL for many weeks but mysteriously reappeared just before i was about to throw in the towel and admit all the library lady.

Tomorrow we’re going to feed the ducks along the canal.  There’s a huge mound of uneaten bread feastering away in the bread bin which we need to get rid of before the mould takes over the kitchen.  Unfortunately the ducks territory has been overtaken by millions of seagulls.  Like the urban fox, they’ve sussed out that life in London is easy pickings.

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