In the wake of the horrible Christchurch shootings, I have been trying to think about articulating what it is to be a New Zealander here in London. My experience here is very different from New Zealanders at home; we live in a city that acknowledges its vulnerability but just gets on with it regardless. We work and eat and shop and exercise and are educated side-by-side people who are different. My kids go to a state school that is Muslim by a large majority and we learn to buff our way through the school year, arguing the toss over what to call the nativity play and over the content of sex education classes and whether or not to serve alcohol at the Summer Fair but it all kind of works. This city is pockmarked by tribes all over, created by race, ethnicity, money and class, and we mix and we grumble but we mostly get along. For years, through the tube bombings and the London Bridge attacks and the current stabbings, we’ve had family and friends tell us to get back to New Zealand so that we are all finally safe – but ‘safe’ is a relative term and you can’t get yourself into a state over what might happen when you walk out of the door, right?
So the New Zealand thing – as the place we come from, as an identity we wear quite loosely now, as a memory shared only by my husband and I (the kids having only known it as an infrequent holiday place) and as our likely future – has been on my mind. The global focus on New Zealand has been so terrible and lovely at the same time, and it has made me wonder about what it is to be one of them.
I’ve also been wondering what to say, but words are pretty inadequate. Luckily we have Jacinda in charge – wise and kind and unafraid, and who has managed to use her words to calm, to show respect, to cut down and to change things. After all the Westminster jiggery pokery, it is a relief to think that some people can lead properly out of chaos and make some sort of sense and order from brokenness. The majority of the country seem to be woken up and spurred to active tolerance and love, having had to confront any prejudices and seeing the victims as people first and foremost. I’ve had to examine my own prejudices too. It’s always a bit of a shock to see that they things you’ve come to regard as a bit of a joke or a vague grumble coming out from your own head or mouth aren’t really ok.
So. In lieu of profundity, I give you photographs of me in my underwear two days before giving birth:
My darling clever friend took these – she hasn’t retouched them yet so they’ll look even more modelly – and now I can die happily, knowing that everyone has the profile of my enormous belly etched forever into their memories. I know I am in my knickers which is a bit overshare-y but I might never look quite so taut again, and I am literally weeks away from having my hair fall out in clumps once the pregnancy hormones wave their last goodbye to my increasingly haggard visage. And when you are heavily pregnant, your curves make sense. Once the baby exits, and the ghosts of those former curves are still there, but in a lumpen, can’t-do-up-your-jeans-but-there’s-nothing-in-there-anymore kind of way, then it is heartening to see you at your fertile best. Like a glorious pomegranate. Or a snake that just ate a mouse.
In an effort to slim down the thighs and upper arms I have been running again, but this time with the addition of a very fast, inexplicably muscly, sprinty, effortlessly stamina-ed eldest son. I cannot fathom how or why he has become a fast sportsman when all he does is play Fortnite and laugh at instagram memes while taking up most of the couch, but there you have it. The athleticism of youth. He basically walks alongside me, occasionally giving me an encouraging smile for 4 kms while I set my face in Hard Mode and try to jog without stopping and with only a little bit of bladder disappointment. On Sunday, it was our third week in and he decided to sprint the whole way. It is mortifying, but also kind of like having a free personal trainer. I should be paying him £35 per hour for the shame-induced motivation.
Meanwhile, this is Remi and I in our natural habitat – Ottolenghi for cakes:
And the real reason why I had baby number six? So I can go on Monday mornings to The Electric Cinema mother and baby screenings to watch movies for the princely sum of £17.50 per ticket. Outrageous, but worth it for the feeling of bunking off as well as the comfy seats and free tiny cubes of brownie:
Here is Remi in his knits and be-scabbed by eyebrow cradle cap – poor kid:
But so handsome:
IN OTHER NEWS:
Apparently, the children will eat soup if it is orange (Ottolenghi Simple’s coconut, tomato and lentil), but not if it is green (courgette, lime and pea). They feel very strongly about this but didn’t let me know until I had made a lot of it all.
My lovely parents are coming over to see us in summer, so if you live in W2 and need someone to live in your flat and feed your cat, my parents are the answer to all of your animal husbandry needs.
Casper turned 11 and spent over £100 of his assorted birthday money on Yu-Gi-Oh! cards where involve him duelling with his brothers and talking nonsense. (No, me either).
I went to a Smythson sample sale yesterday and spent a total of two hours in queues – to get in, to give them my coat, and to pay. I bought six tiny little leather bound notebooks that were £25 down to £3, but now I feel bad about the unsustainability of £3 leather-bound notebooks that feel too good to write in. Now they will be given away as gifts to haunt someone else. I think we know the moral of the sample sale story here.
For your enjoyment, the baby, again:
I am incredibly grateful that you allow us/ me to have glimpses of into your life and family.
…to me you are willingly and lovingly living in an impossible manner…I have space in abundance (fb: artists house), so when you guys do get to the antipodes, come stay – not enough Wi-Fi to maintain the current demands you have, so it would be an interesting social experience!
In the meantime, a mantra I proudly spout , expecting a gasp in response, (and am never disappointed)…. even by a friend who shares her home with 9 others….” my cousin and husband live in a 2-bedroom flat, in London, with 6 boys and a dog”….I am soooo proud of you all xo
I thank you, Cousin J!
I am so late in seeing this but OMG you two are so amazingly beautiful! The pregnancy pictures are amazingly lovely. And your sixth makes me wish there were more babies on my personal horizon…. but there are not.
I really appreciate your reflections on N.Z. and that situation and the NZ response. The total humanity and dignity and caring demonstrated. Norway and New Zealand can stand tall in responding to terrorists. ‘Thoughts and prayers’ really doesn’t cut it, and is now becoming a nasty joke. SO appreciate you!!! Thank you over and over again. I don’t look every day as know you are super busy….but it is always a gold star day when I hear from you.
Thank you! You are a tonic for my world weary soul. A Gold Star Day!!!!! That’s lovely sentiment and very encouraging xxx
If/when you return to NZ, you’ll be taking half a dozen fine young men who’ve lived an ordinarily extraordinary urban life and who know how it is to muddle along in the glorious chaos that is London. They’ll make New Zealand even more miraculous than it is today, with Jacinda at the helm. Oh, she steered the country through that dreadful event with such graceful rigour. She is young but wise – a bit like you, fab Harridan.
Talking of youth, bloody hell you look magnificent in those photos. I was a withered wreck after two babies. And the newest addition? God he’s lovely. There’s a spirited look in his eye, though I’m not sure why that surprises me.
I agree with Rose. It’s always lovely – even when circumstances are dire – to find a post from you.
Wondering how your boys, particularly the bigger ones, feel about the move back ‘home’. I moved my family and my kids transatlantically when they were 2 and 5. Thought they’d never return to the UK. Lo and behold, one kid’s back there at uni and the other one’s threatening to do the same. Leaving me parked on the wrong part of the planet but knowing that they should do their thing. Oh, the complexities.
Always such a joy to read your words.
Thank you so much for the kindest words! So encouraging.
So – the boys. They have very mixed feelings about going back to New Zealand – collectively, they’ve all been to Turkey more than they have been there. It feels like “home” but an idealised one to them – a bit fantasy, a bit “Lord of the Rings”. Nervous and excited and scared – like us, a bit.
Bladder disappointment 😂😂
so true though, eh?