Someone asked me today, why do you love living in London? I admit it has taken us years to get where we are, to feel settled in a way where both of us can admit this feels like ‘home’- for awhile at least.
Our journey around the world to get here has been interesting, though restless. Starting out in Wales where my husband and I met, we felt out of place, alone and often resentful at having to drive to London so often to visit friends and family. South West England was better but it too had different issues that niggled at us. Its segregated feel, drawn along false economic lines made us feel uncomfortable as a mixed family, knowing our loyalties lay on both sides but our economics pushed us to one more than another.
Our journey to Edmonton, Canada (where I grew up) and then eventually Lagos, Nigeria (where hubby grew up) were both attempts for us to feel grounded and settled. And though both were satisfying in many different ways, the pull was always back to London.
So what is it with this place that keeps us coming back? And what has finally made us feel like this has more of what we’ve been looking for? As a mixed family, I’ve always been told it’s important to find somewhere neutral for both partners- a place that isn’t home for either of you and that you can both forge an identity starting from scratch. And that’s exactly what we’re doing. Starting out in London has been an entirely new beginning, from finding schools for our daughters, to researching areas to live, tradespeople for jobs and transport to get places, all the knowledge we’d built up as a couple over time was wiped for us to start again.
We don’t complain though. For me, it’s been exhausting with three kids but strangely enjoyable. From the smog of Lagos to the emptiness of Edmonton, London has offered us more than we could even imagine.
But the most important: diversity. Not just from a race point of view but from every different angle, you see people doing their own thing. They’re even trying to be different so they can stand out from the crowd. Sure, you get that everywhere but perhaps not on the scale that you do in a big city such as London.
I love that the guy who helped me pull my pram onto the bus the other day was black transvestite male. I love that my daughter asked out loud whether he was a girl or boy and he answered her with a smile. I love that my eldest daughters’ class has at least three kids from mixed black/white families, that there are over 15 different languages spoken in the class and that my daughter actually wants to speak a different language so she can be like her friends. I love that our friends consist of families of all different colours and mixes, even with seemingly monoracial families, the mixes span cultures and religions and this is normal. I love that I can point out beautiful, smart, curly-haired women everyday to my daughters on our way to school. I love that my daughters’ friends include kids of all different abilities and this is also normal.. I love that the tube was filled with blue and purple haired girls the other day inspiring my daughter to imagine her own self with purple hair. I love that the bus journey into the city is littered with shops selling all sorts of wear such as elaborate costumes, beautiful wooden instruments and ornate, kitsch furniture that looks as if it belongs in a palace. I love that my daughter thinks every ornate gate in London is Buckingham Palace. I love that police officers ride horses and wear funny hats. I love that the Science Museum is free, workshops are led by young diverse students and that we’ve been three times in three months and each time we’ve had a completely different experience- all positive. I love that my daughters have seen a West End show already once in their life. I love that hubby and my date night was at a restaurant that is filled floor to ceiling with beautiful Victorian paintings-and it wasn’t pretentious. I love that Chinese New Year wasn’t just celebrated at my daughter’s nursery, they actually paid a visit to Chinatown to get the real experience.
There is more I could list but I think you get the picture. It’s not perfect I know but I’m enjoying it for now as I show my Mom around this beautiful city. I just wanted to appreciate out loud that the last three years have been up and down but we are here in this place, at this time for a reason and as I contemplate ‘home’, I realize it is here.