People always talk to me about moving out of London. They think it’ll be a better place to raise the children. They tell me I can get better value for money with property. They think I will agree with them and applaud them for their wholesome ideas and great plans to gain more space or raise capital.
But I think of the people I knew I grew up in the ‘country’ and couldn’t wait to leave. I think of my own growing up and wouldn’t change a thing. I try to agree kindly because I’m a polite type who doesn’t like to confront people with her outlandish ideas, but you might discern a subtle shake of my head and a frown creasing my brow, and you might hear me wonder aloud what they will do in the countryside once they have seen all the fields and waited an hour for the bus into town (ok so I don’t know much about living outside of the city but there we go).
I also think to myself, maybe they don’t live where I live. Where I live, you don’t usually come across many people who want to move away.
I have always been pro-South London, of course, ready to argue the case re the North/South London divide. Nowadays, since my work location has changed to South East London, I find that I can count on my fingers the number of times I leave the SE postcodes per year. This week, oh so rare and wonderful, I have been to both W1 and E3. I probably won’t need to do that again for a while.
We bought our place in this area 15 years ago and moved in at the turn of the millennium. At first we were a ‘dinky’ as they used to call it, double income no kids yet. Or in other words, we slept at home but we generally worked and socialised elsewhere and didn’t recognise let alone acknowledge any of our neighbours on the street.
Things changed when we had kids, of course. In most ways.
Having kids meant I first started to spend proper time in the neighbourhood, and properly engage with the community. It is now that the kids go to school and have their own friends and lives that I really start to appreciate the neighbourhood where we live. Local really is best at the moment. I also have to say that the area has undergone enormous changes since our early days here. Far from being the only place we could afford, as it was at the time, this area is now immensely desirable, it has good places to eat and drink, film clubs, pop ups of all sorts and you see hip, young people around who obviously chose to live here. On any night there is a choice of several social events which are all a 10 minute stagger away from home. That is a huge change in the last decade.
I also owe it to a friend who made me realise that there was plenty of room for me to get involved with local things. An early encounter with somebody who spoke scathingly about ‘the Hill’ made me think I should stay out of it: from the outside I had got the wrong picture. On the ‘inside’ I have done my minuscule bit, with the Dino Collective being part of 2 Silent Discos so far (hope more to come), and I am going to be shaking real donation buckets and virtual tweet outs for the upcoming and very exciting New Cross + Deptford Free Film Festival. 40 films in 23 venues over 9 days – all for free, starting 25th April.
As for the children getting involved, they had a great time being in the pantomime Puss in Boots at Christmas. Quite apart from getting to sing and dance on stage was the far greater excitement of the japes backstage and getting to know the other cast members, both kids and adults.
We are now in Telegraph Hill Festival time – in fact this weekend is the climax of scores of events in the area which has included everything from murder mystery plays, talks and comedy, music, cookery events, and the community show, which is a highlight and something we have (whispers) never been to see until now. Annie Get Your Gun was this year’s community show in the church and starred many of the kids’ pals from school and outside of school, along with many of our friends and neighbours. This show totally highlighted the talent that’s up on the hill in droves – dozens of professional musicians, actors, artists, most of them volunteering for the fun of it and to raise money for the Telegraph Hill Centre and other local amenities, not just multi-talented and clever people but also uber-generous with their time. Next year the kids want to be in it too.
My post last May about the first #RumBQ in the area, which was put on by Trinity Music London, brought the greatest number of views in one day to my blog in all of its life so far. This event totally summed up the spirit in the area. This weekend the #RumBQ is back in the park as part of the Festival’s closing party, and along with many others I am hoping for a reprise of last May, a happy beautiful day with glowing sunshine and good spirits (especially rum) flowing while the massive sound system kicks out its reggae music. And if the rain does come, the day will still be happy and beautiful as the sound system will move into the THC, and the SKAM event will carry on in the park with its skateboarding, music and pedal-powered roller disco run by Electric Pedals! What on earth is not to like?
The community around here is generous and friendly and warm. There are a few individuals who go totally beyond the call to bring us pop up dining clubs, dance, culture and news – all on our doorstep. I won’t name them here but I thank you deeply. The Hill Station cafe (also known as ‘New Cross’s most cherished communal spot’, as per this article in the Huffington Post from February) is the total hub of the area with its never-ending variety of different events, and it has consciously sought to bring different parts of the community together.
There are many individuals and families who play their own role in the spirit of the place. And there are a few curmudgeons who we just keep away from as much as possible. For them, maybe the countryside is a brilliant plan. It’s thatta way.
Oh and lastly, did I mention the view?
Since the turn of the millennium I have only lived in this neighbourhood. If I were to live to the end of the millennium (not wanting to be dramatic about it) I would want it to be here.
The Telegraph Hill Festival runs until 6th April and culminates this weekend with (amongst many other things) local artists opening up their homes for Open Houses, Club Tropicana disco night, the SKAM event – skateboarding, art and music – and of course the #RumBQ.
Come and join me by the sound system, oh and mine’s a rum and ginger with a jerk chicken chaser.