The brilliant thing about Christmas is that you spend a lot of the time seeing people and listening to them talk. Of course this can be a bad thing (please stop talking, please) and this year the theme of the conversation seemed to centre around raising future children in London and how this is A Very Bad Thing and something only fools would do. I was born and raised in London (Zone 4 to be precise) and loved every minute, except of course when I didn’t get my way. Sister and I turned out fine because it is possible to raise decent human beings in a city.
I was born and brought up in Zone 4 in a cul-de-sac with a brook outside my house and birdsong constantly accompanying everything I did in the garden. I played outside everyday (cul-de-sac meant we could go for days and days without seeing moving cars) and it was idyllic in a very concrete-y, sort of way. At the same time I went to a London-city state comprehensive, made friend with other children from every race and nationality, could be in Zone 1 in under 20 minutes, and never had to deal with livestock poo. It never occurred to me that anywhere else could be better or that other people thought that my parents doing this was somehow detrimental to me or Sister. Yes so sheep scare me a little and when I do go to the countryside I worry that cows will attack me, which is apparently a thing, but police sirens don’t phase me at all, and I am fine with that. I am very, very happy to be wary of sheep if it means I don’t have to deal with their poo.
When I ask people why they don’t want to raise families in London, it’s usually crime and fresh air related. But crimes happen everywhere because there are people everywhere. I have read enough crime books to know that the countryside isn’t at all safe (books and Midsomer Murders are the font of most of my countryside knowledge). When there is no one near you for miles and miles no one can hear you scream and you also don’t have phone signal. Whereas if I scream in my home I’m pretty sure the police would be on their way before I draw in another breath.
As for fresh air, we have parks – lots and lots of parks all over London. In fact I have two less than 10 minutes away from my house. And when I inhale deeply in a London park I don’t choke on the smell of manure or burning flesh because there has been another outbreak of mad cow disease. Someone once said to me that all that untamed countryside is what they love about not living in London – they want their children to experience all that wonderful wilderness. I may have laughed in their face; the British countryside is stunningly beautiful and most of it is very, very tame. In fact where you find people you will find neat hedgerows and field divisions. All man made, just like all the parks in London. Unless of course you move to a non-manmade wood.
London is this unique place where anything is possible and no one knows you but you know you belong. Here are just some of the life lessons kids will learn by being raised here:
- You can always walk faster. And type. And talk. There is no point doing anything if it isn’t done quickly and those who do decide to do things slower are there to annoy you;
- Pop-up experiences like Secret Cinema are normal. So normal in fact that when they don’t happen you get slightly annoyed. And you are perfectly happy paying £75 for one ticket (‘it’s Star Wars! Of course I can’t miss it.’);
- You will never actually be alone in London. Sure if you leave the house in unwashed clothes with messy hair you will be alone while I suspect in villages you will be gossiped about, but in London you will always find someone who has the same interests as you. (‘You paid £75 for that Star Wars experience? So did I!’);
- Diversity is an actual, real life thing and not something the Daily Fail tells you is bad. In London you meet people from all over the world with cultures the same as yours and vastly different. It is glorious;
- Kids learn the value of plastic. Whoever carries cash in London isn’t doing it right or is a tourist;
- Boredom isn’t a thing and walking really isn’t exercise;
- Running is the new not-running and meditation is everywhere;
- Map reading is a skill for people who don’t have smart phones. With apps like Google Maps telling you and your future offspring exactly where to go no one will need to know how to direct themselves ever again;
- Standing on the left of an escalator is punishable by death;
- South London – the Sarf Landan of gangsters and drugs and turf wars – is actually full of artisan bakeries, cereal cafes, art galleries, and very nice beards;
- Sunshine = no clothes. Your kid will learn to accept seeing a lot of other people’s flesh. Or they will be the ones doing the stripping. I suspect this happens everywhere though.
Frankly, I don’t know why you would want to raise your kid anywhere else.