Lu says she doesn’t want to live in London when she grows up. Boy, do times change. She used to love the idea – berating us regularly for leaving London when she was a toddler. She was the most stressed of all of us when we left. She became obsessed with wearing a yellow, deflated swimming armband on her head. It was her crown. The only time you could take it off was when she was asleep. Even then you had to get a towel and wipe off the sweat.
She became fixed on her Peppa Pig slippers too. The armband was comically tolerable but the slippers were just plain annoying. Lu wouldn’t take them off. In the middle of winter. Even if we were going outside. The slippers were pink and fluffy – but in the wild, wet, Welsh winter? She spent a whole year in a new neighbourhood, with a new baby sister, wearing her pink and fluffy slippers and an armband on her sweaty head. Thank you very much.
As she got a bit older, I found her pissing on the carpet. I’d been wondering what the smell was. It seemed Lulu’s protest at us moving to Wales was deep and long-standing. We put it down to her not being a huge fan of change. Even though she had a full set of baby teeth and preferred to have a number two in her nappy in the warm airing cupboard, this kid still knew what she liked – and didn’t like.
Since then, she’s grown up to be a big fan of living in London even though she technically doesn’t live there. Because of this, we’ve thought this will be her natural grown-up direction. Lulu in London. Even the words have a natural flow.
Recently though, this idea has started to go dry. ‘I’m not sure I could live here. I’m worried about all the stabbings,’ she said this week during our Easter visit.
She’s not lying. There’s been an unprecedented increase in knife crime in London. It’s been reported that last year’s violence was the worst year ever. While a lot of the attacks are motivated by gang violence, the sheer numbers of attacks are becoming an overwhelming statistic. Often in daylight in all kinds of neighbourhoods, surrounded by people going about their normal day. Victims are often ambushed – almost savannah-style. As if they’re being attacked by a clan of hyenas or a troop of chimpanzees. And the innocent bystanders? Are we gazelles? Gnus?
But hold on. Lulu’s changed too since she’s been going to mainstream school. She’s had a new boyfriend for a few weeks now. This boy is well, pretty cool. Witty. Reasonable. In the top subject sets. Slightly geeky. Which makes it easier to tolerate her talking to him non-stop. Deep breath.
Now, Lulu suddenly sees her life going in a different direction. The relative, current safety of small-town living, combined with feeling part of a community. Starting to take its hold on our Lulu. It only took twelve years.