In my biggest single act of maternal sacrifice to date…
by Julie Alpine-Crabtree
We have left London. I have been moved out, find myself in the sticks, alone with a 16-month baby girl and boy of three, my chef spending most of his hours working his balls off in London.
Well, this looking out of the window and seeing no one, hearing nothing but the odd blackbird or sudden, startling bark from a pit bull, it is not for me.
(Goodbye children’s section of the Barbican Library, goodbye endless sunny trips to the zoo, Coram’s Fields, Fortune Street park…)
I have survived the initial trauma of swapping the pulsing heart of Shoreditch for rural hotels offering entertainment in the form of a ‘weekend of clairvoyance’ and the seemingly never-ending viscous remains of a snail that came a cropper in our washing machine. Have survived one month without computer, car, childcare or cleaner. Continue to get by without all but the most essential items of furniture, our tenants currently having need of our sofa, dining table etc.
And yet… I am not unscarred.
Yes, I moaned about managing life in a small, two-bedroom, fourth-floor flat possessing many storage demands but no solutions, no outdoor space, ten cold, hard, marble stairs in the lobby to navigate several times daily with buggy, children and shopping, the ever-closer-looming problem of dearth of decent local state primaries… I moaned, and yet…
And yet I should have heeded the warning bells (utility room?), done more research, at least seen the place before signing on the dotted line.
The old woman who lived in a vinegar bottle never had it so bad.
No more concierge to sign for packages, no more walls painted the shade of white we once agonised over. No more Pret, Pod, Eat, Starbucks, Nero, Costa within a 100m radius of our front door. No more ever-changing sea of faces, smorgasboard of street-style-blog fodder. No more reassuring all-night rumble of number 43s and 205s, no more familiar bums with their familiar scams, no more sirens, street art, street food, cocktail bars, convenience stores. No more sense of agelessness, of being a twenty-to-fifty-something year old in an ocean of twenty-to-fifty-something year olds.
No more history.
There, we fed the pigeons, here the ducks. There, clean-shaven young men and women in suits make way for a buggy, here we get held up behind the Zimmer frames, can’t quite get confident about driving on twisty country lanes, where something above buggy speed seems required, but where foxes jump out and riders lose control of rearing horses.
There, I peppered my days with meetings with wise, witty friends and colleagues, sometimes with children in tow, sometimes alone. Here I don’t have a babysitter and for the first time in my life am bothered by my laughter lines, grey hairs.
I am pining, am broken-hearted, lovesick and anxious. Hating myself for smoking cigarettes again after four years without.
It’s been over a year since I first tweeted: ‘London: true love or Stockholm Syndrome?’
I think I have found the answer.
And, while I know I would be a better person if, instead of this maudlin outpouring, I had written a chipper first-post-from-new-posting packed full of what I’ve discovered to love about our new life – because it is not without its charms – here I am, with the Charles Linden anti-stress method downloaded onto my Kindle, though not yet read, and the words of the late, great Nora Ephron coming back to haunt me: choose to be the heroine of your own life, not the victim.
How about tragic heroine?
Really, there’s no getting around it. I’m going to have to go out and make some friends.
Mothers of Godawful, Surrey, look out. I’ll be the one with the Play-Do-stained jeans, faint smell of home-grown about me, dazed look in my eye. Consider yourself warned.