In the first of a new series, blogger Bell from Bow tackles the challenges of being a parent in the Big Smoke
I grew up in South Wales, riding fat ponies because the closest cinema was 50 minutes away and there wasn’t much else to do. No rush-hour traffic except when there were sheep on the road, no pollution apart from at silage-spreading time, and absolutely no Tube, theatre or tourists.
These are all things I moan about having made my life in London. I’ve been here for 14 years, and I’ve been a parent in the city for three. I remember being roundly, fatly pregnant, and looking at a map of where in the home counties (I admit that I was a walking cliché) I wanted to raise our tiny sproglets. Nothing came of it, but I knew deep down that I wanted the upbringing for my kids that I had. Not the urban sprawl of Zone 2. A knowledge of bird calls, not bus routes.
My two sons came along and as they grew, so did my friendships with my East London NCT group. Bound together by birth stories, leaky boobs and a thirst for excellent coffee, we could be found pushing our prams round Victoria Park, or daffodil-spotting along the canal, in an effort to walk off the excess of Jaffa Cakes that come with being a new mum.
Little by little, I discovered the best coffee on the Roman Road, the Italian in Hackney with innumerable high chairs, and the best picnic spots on Wanstead Flats. The city opened its green spaces to me and my Bugaboo and I saw a side of London I didn’t know existed.
Don’t get me wrong. I hanker for the countryside when it’s a heatwave or when it snows, when it’s really busy with tourists or when I can’t park outside my house.
London is a city of extremes. But it’s also a city of a million tiny kindnesses. The lady who brought me water and a croissant when I was embarrassed to be breastfeeding in a café. The hairdresser who hunted me down to return a favourite matchbox car. The neighbours who don’t moan when my kids are noisy on a Sunday morning (to be fair, I do deliver wine when they’ve been really bad.)
If my kids grow up to have such big hearts, I’ll be delighted.