Monthly Archives: June 2015

Jah and Sam make new friends in London

Both boys made good friends in their new schools. As I have said, one of Sam’s friends Dee is still his friend. By now 30 years have elapsed since they met as eleven-year-olds. When Dee and Sam were teenagers, Dee had a new baby sister and he and Sam often looked after her. I remember one day when Sam said to me with a tone of horror in his voice.

“We’ve got to take her to the park and see ducks”. I think he felt that as a teenager he had grown away from such childish activities. However, they all three survived the experience. I based my book “My Big Brother JJ” on Dee and his little sister.

JJ cover for Buzz

As I have indicated before, the social mix in the area was great. As well as having a friend whose father worked in the music industry and another whose mother worked in the film industry, Jah also had a friend whose father was a successful architect. The architect was very friendly with members of one branch of the Royal family.

This was the kind of social and housing mix. Some of the children lived in temporary housing. Some lived in mansions. . . .

One little girl lived with her delightful mother in a religious community. She would sometimes arrive in school half asleep, still wearing slippers and often several hours after the start of the school day. (When the child grew up, she became a Norland Nanny, so I would guess that she had had enough of casual hippy-type living.)

Although the Primary school had a racially mixed population, there was only one other black child in Jah’s class. This boy obligingly fell into the stereotype roll of class clown – and even on occasion – the ‘naughty’ clown. Jah did not copy him. Fortunately he did not dare to be naughty. Sometimes he was invited to that boy’s house to play after school and he had a great time. We never discovered what they did that was so great, but when the boy came to our house they mostly did break-dancing on the pavement in front of our house. Sam joined in as well. They were very dedicated to improving their skills and they were most impressive to watch.

2 dancing silhouettes

 

Hip Hop boy small copy

The picture below is of Jah and Savo, a friend from his Leicester days who came down to London to spend a day with us.

Jah and friends

Savo’s family were Serbs who settled in Britain. This was quite a while before the big problems of the break up of the former Yugoslavia. Savo and Jah formed a warm friendship at their Primary School. Perhaps they were the only children in their class from a different/exotic background?  Leicester already had a large Indian population but there were not many Indian children in our children’s Primary School. Leicester was quite segregated between different communities.  The Indian families mostly lived in other areas of the city.

Savo was very shy in public of his interesting background. He was terrified that his mother would speak to him in his Mother-tongue in front of other children when she came to pick him up after school. He very clearly did not want to appear ‘different’. Jah was obvously ‘different’ because of the colour of his skin. I don’t know whether that had any effect on their initial bonding, but it remained a good friendship.

In our family we were quite used to the children having to move towns and to start new friendships, as D. served as a minister of churches in various new areas/towns. Fortunately both Lucy and Anna still have friends they met aged five and seven. They have been able to keep in touch into adulthood.

Although there were only two non-white children in Jah’s class, interestingly there were many children from other European backgrounds. There was a Swedish boy, a Swiss boy, a Greek-Cypriot boy and some Irish children. There were also one or two American children, who were over in the UK for a few years.

And then came news of a group of very special visitors.

(See next blogpost.)

 

Jah settles in to his London Primary School

Recently I met someone who works as a virtual teacher with ‘Looked After’ and adopted children. Of course I already knew that ‘Looked After Children’ is the terminology for children in foster care. Her task, as I understand it, is to oversee the educational needs of such children. I was amazed and delighted to hear about the care and the many follow-up arrangements that are set in place today. This help is available and considered to be the right of the children for the whole time that they are in education, even when they appear to be doing absolutely fine. There is also a substantial amount of money for each child in this situation.  I wish such care had been afforded to Jah during his school days. The teachers at the extra-learning department were very caring and enthusiastic, but my contact pointed out that often an adopted child, or one who has had to move from foster home to foster home, has a whole lot of extra concerns filling their head, and sometimes these crowd out necessary learning. I am not sure now whether this help is also offered to children who are adopted as babies like Sam,  but I would think so.

NOW BACK TO 1983

Jah settled well into his Primary school in North West London. He needed help with reading. I used to take him on Saturday mornings to a retired school teacher for extra help and he eventually made good progress. I am glad we persisted.  The walk involved a bus ride, then a fairly long walk alongside a stream, through fields until we reached Hampstead Garden Suburb. It would have been easier by Underground but for some reason he did not like travelling that way and in order to get him to the session, I had to find a pleasant way of getting there.

He set off quite happily each morning to school. We enjoyed the walk together. I looked at the window boxes and flowers. One house had grapes growing up the walls and onto the railings. This interested me, as in Leicester some miserable person had chopped down his apple tree, because he did not like children stealing a few apples!! These grapes could easily have been picked from the street. I imagine they were left intact, although I did not check with the householder. Anyway they looked good and some window boxes were really colourful. I don’t think Jah appreciated the flowers as much as me – obviously. He much preferred looking into the windows of what he called “The Naughty Knicker Shop”!

Ben by Square

Jah chatted happily as we walked along to school.

There was good music provision at the school.

music lesson

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

He was lucky enough to be allowed to try first the violin, then the cello and even the double bass!

cartoon cellist

Image courtesy of koratmember at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The atmosphere in the playground was quite wild. We parents observed many strange things as we waited for our respective children. One poor boy was so distressed because his separated parents fought publicly – OK only verbally – but this was distressing for the small boy and anybody who was a witness to such a harrowing scene.

When Jah was invited to a friend’s birthday party, all the parents were welcome to stay, which was so friendly. However I did not enjoy hearing the children complaining about the contents of their party bags. I must say that I was shocked. Why were the children so rude and ungrateful I wondered? Why did these London children think they had the right to grumble and say exactly what they thought? Why couldn’t they exercise any self-control/manners?  (But maybe there are children like that everywhere? ?)

The house where the party was held was so “Bohemian” that it really interested me. The family lived in part of a large house with hugely high ceilings. The mother’s current partner was busy constructing an extra floor inside the room. Huge timbers lay strewn along the floor. What he was doing was very clever. He was creating a whole new floor for some beds. These had to be accessed by a ladder, but fortunately no child clambered up it at the party and no child fell over the timbers, even though they played some energetic games.

The party boy’s bedroom was also a revelation to me. His bed was like a four-poster bed, with a light blue parachute over it. It looked very exotic.

Anther boy in the same class lived in a beautiful five-storey house. His family owned the whole house. His father worked in the music industry.

As an adult I was pleased to see that there was a good social mix in the area. Fortunately children did not worry about such things. They just chose their own friends and got on with life.

Sam and Jah The first few days in their London schools.

 

ID-100302864

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We moved at the end of the school summer holidays, so that the boys could start at the beginning of the school term. It was long ago in 1983.

I don’t remember handing Sam over to his playground at the secondary school. (Maybe he wanted to walk in without parents!?)  I certainly remember doing the ‘dummy run’ walk with him a few days before he started.  It was along some pleasant roads with big houses and interesting gardens until we reached the busy main road to be crossed.

I also remember that the school grounds were pleasant – although no playing fields. The pupils would have to go to sports fields by coach – until the government of the day, as well as changes to the Inner London Authority (ILEA) and funding cuts made that problematic.  Another thing that I only realised later was that the grounds were entirely open for anybody to exercise their dog.  Naturally that situation had to be changed, with increased awareness of unsuitable gatecrashers into the grounds – awareness of possible child abuse and many other unpleasant hazards.  Today the school grounds are surrounded by a fence and I think there is an electronic entry system.

Something wonderful seemed to be happening to Sam. After we had been in London for about three days, he appeared to walk tall and had sorted out which bus went where.

London busImage courtesy of wiangya at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

He saw black people and people of all ethnicity all around him. He developed a more confident air. It was good to behold.

multiracial city

Image courtesy of stockimages at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

He soon began to blossom. He made many good friends during his 8 years at the school. . Interestingly, one friend he met on his first day is still a good friend of his a few decades later.

He developed a strong passion for basketball and there was plenty of opportunity for him to play in teams.basket ball

When he progressed to the 6th Form, he was asked to coach and he was offered a small remuneration. Initially he was disappointed that he was allotted a girls’ team, but pretty soon he could see the advantages!

 

Image courtesy of artur84 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

He was popular with staff and pupils.

The school population was very mixed in so many ways – racially, great variety in wealth etc. I was surprised to discover that so few of Sam’s friends came from two-parent households. That also was different from the Primary school he had attended in Leicester.

I might possibly write another blogpost about Sam and his secondary school days. That will be for another day.

The family moves. The first night in London.

We have now lived in London for over thirty years, but I can still remember the day we moved in.

We packed up our belongings in the Leicester house and the furniture was not due to arrive until the following day. Therefore we brought sleeping bags and a few necessary items and all camped in the living/dining room space.

We had no curtains at the windows. I remember looking out at the two large blocks of flats visible from our back window. I found it hard to believe that there were so many windows lit up at night and to reflect that behind those windows would be so many families – all people sharing the same air.

Flats at night

Then another huge surprise was in store!

The house began to tremble. Huge searchlights swept the sky.

weldingImage courtesy of gameanna at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We looked out of the back window. Down below – on the main line into Euston, great engineering works were being undertaken.

man on rails

Image courtesy of papaija2008 at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Huge rail-moving equipment was in operation.

Heavy crawler bulldozer

Image courtesy of Supertrooper at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 

This was of great interest to everybody at first, but then we realised that this work was probably going to go on all night.

 

To add to the complication, it was such a hot night, that we had to keep the windows open. The noise all that night was tremendous. Later we discovered from our new neighbours that such a large operation hardly ever happened and we only saw something similar on a few occasions during the eight years that we lived in that house.

Well at least it was a memorable welcome to London!