Sunday 4 June 2017

Maybe it's because I'm a Londoner

I've lived in London all of my life - with the exception of the 4 years I lived in the Midlands whilst at University. In that time we've experienced the tyranny of the National Front marching past our home in South London, the murders of people for being gay or black or asian and for many decades the mindless violence of bombings in the name of the IRA. I was in Camden on a Saturday when they called in a bomb threat to the police and the crowd I was in was directed the wrong way into the path of the potential explosion. Thankfully it was not detonated.

A young woman I met while at Warwick University - who was from Leicester - told me that her parents had warned her against visiting London in case of bombs and I recall talking to a friend from Nothern Ireland who recalled seeing news stories about how violent and unsafe London when I had seen the same about his home town. I don't remember ever feeling unsafe though.

In recent years we have experienced mass violence with attacks on cities and public transport. I was travelling to Ireland on Sept 12th 2001 and it took over 2 hours to check in at Stansted Airport. Security had been stepped up overnight and the world of air travel changed forever. On the day of the London attacks in 2005 Hubbie was travelling to work and he was so delayed that he called me and we spoke as he stood at Vauxhall bus station unclear why nothing was running. I watched the news and relayed the story that is was due to electrical outages until it became clear that this was a serious act of terrorism and not a widespread electrical fault.

When the Westminster attacks took place my friend was locked down at work and unable to leave. We communicated by text messages - thankfully phones were still working. We joked about me sending her a delivery pizza in case she was kept overnight. It kept at bay my fear that she had been forgotten in the building and when she told me she was going home I was so relieved and went to bed knowing she was safe.

I'm a parent now and I do think about what this means to my children. I used to listen to the radio in the car, but the other day my older son said, "Mummy we don't want to hear about killing." It's become such a regular feature on the radio that I had forgotten to change over before the news bulletin started. Of course I don't want to censor the truth, but my children are very young and I will decide how to talk to them about violence, terrorism and the harm that evil people do.

At one point I did talk to Hubbie about moving away and keeping our boys away from harm, but I am not entirely sure that is possible. This is the world we live in right now. I talked to my boys the other day about how it's my job to keep them safe. That instead of going to work in an office I see that as my job and I take it very seriously. We have had a tough half term with a lot of bickering and fighting and at times I've really struggled to keep myself together and haven't always been as kind as I would like.

We took the boys to London on Monday for a special half term day out. We took the train to London Bridge station and walked along the South Bank after lunch. In our early courting days we used to go out regularly to the Market Porter pub and used to take part in a pub quiz at the Southwark Arms with friends on a weekly basis. We even won a few times. Watching the news stories and grainy phone footage about the attacks on Saturday evening me and Hubbie talked about how unsettling it is when somewhere you know so well is the scene of such devastation.

Everyone told me that parenting would be tiring and there would be tantrums and laughter and it would be a bit disgusting at times. No one told me how terrifying it would be. That fear you have that something could happen to your babies that is entirely out of your control. That cold feeling that makes you want to wrap them up in cotton wool and never let them leave your side ever again. What I have to remember is that I have lived with this all my life. I just wish my boys didn't have to.

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