I grew up on an estate in Central London: a clean, community-spirited estate that housed hundreds of families, which meant a ready made army of other kids to play with at any given daylight hour. It was pretty safe - open balconies skirted the flats offering a vista of the playground and the football pitch below (much of this has since given way to a car park. In the 1970s there were considerably fewer motors and if your family owned one, it was usually in the form of a black cab). We used to shout up to Mum and Dad for money when the ice-cream van came (well everyone else did; we weren't allowed, we had to go up and ask for it), played British Bulldog and Tin-Can Alley Man and made up dance routines to Bucks Fizz songs. During the evening, there was a youth club that ran from 6-8. It was furnished with everything a child could want, down to a VCR, a pool table and a tuck shop. There was always something to do, someone to do it with.
'If I ever have kids,' I used to say. 'I'll move back to London.'
But those rose-tinted spectacles made the world look murky brown before she was even born. London? You must be mad! In fact, for the first 16 months of my baby's life, we lived in the East Midlands in a small village with two pubs and a church. I knew I couldn't have sustained living there for any longer (I would have gone insane) and the pull to the West was irresistible. Weston has a population about 90 times the size of that village but it's way off being a city. From where I sit, it's semi-rural, it's woodland, it's beach, it's peaceful - 30% of the cars that come up our road are driven by learner-drivers and their instructors - all of the houses are spread out and set back into the hill so that I know who the people in the house to the right of me are but that's about it - in short, it's the opposite to where I grew up.
So, thank Goodness that our flat is in a block of six and that the couple upstairs have that brood of children, some of whom she plays with outside where I can still see them.
And right now, they're driving me bloody mad!!