It may be that Samuel Johnson was right, but despite loving this city with all my heart, something wrong is happening here and yes, I admit it, I am getting tired of what London is becoming.
What I love about London
I have always loved the buzz, the creativity and the unique quirkiness that London has always represented. I fell in love with this city as soon as I put my foot down the airplane.
Pollution, germs or staying on the right on the escalators, have never bothered me.
I am not scared of being trapped in the tube, and I love the crazy night buses that I had read on Harry Potter because, yes, they are real.
Here I have been learning to expand my mind, and follow my dreams.
I saw different races integrating successfully into society and living peacefully, and I truly feel a citizen of the world. I started travelling, and now the world seems somehow more accessible because London is kind of the centre of everything.
Work-wise speaking I had sort of a career, and many promotions that I could only dream in my home country. I could fulfil my dream of working in fashion for Gucci Group and I have made good friends in that scary world.
Everywhere I went, I felt free from judgement most of the times, and I never felt really a foreigner.
I quit smoking, I started a new life and gave birth to my beautiful son here in London.
We started by living in New Cross – kind of a dodgy place – that felt welcoming and perfectly safe to us.
The living room walls of our first place were painted a shocking shade of yellow that I learnt to appreciate and even love.
I love the history here, the museums, the general politeness and the beautiful beautiful architecture.
I think the Queen is a cool woman and I love the British humour as well as their general aplomb.
But there is something that has been changing in the last 9 years that I personally feel quite upsetting.
London, the money machine
Our son Ethan is going to be 4 in a month time, and, as I have always been late with a lot of the baby stuff that, according to the experts of motherhood and the good networking mums association, I should have done – school registration, NCT, breastfeeding groups, sport, and mothers united for the love of their “I can do no wrong” kids -, but not for organising my son’s Birthday Party!
I have been looking for weeks now, and I am getting desperate to find a place at a reasonable price. Apparently this seems like a lost cause, especially here in Battersea where we live. With Clapham and the famous Nappy Valley nearby that makes it apparently a perfect place for families with kids, the prices of everything regarding children are terribly inflated.
I find absurd to spend anything from £350 to £4500 (not joking!) on for a 4 years old Birthday Party. I want him to have his friends to play and celebrate his Birthday with, not a mini-wedding! And it is not a question of being able to afford the price or not, I am talking about the principle of spending that amount of money for something he will not even remember in a couple of years’ time.
This is one of the issues that have been bothering me more and more about London.
The real issue is that everything, just because is London, has become incredibly expensive without having a proper reason.
I am aware that, as a boudoir photographer, I do offer a luxury service, and people pay me a premium because of my skills, my unique vision, the quality of my work, the products and the pre, before and after service care I offer.
What is happening now in London, is that we pay ordinary things or services a premium just because is London. Many of you would think that I am naive and “hello, London is expensive”. True, but lately London has become the feud of money money money at all costs. And I am not talking only of paying for the best and more exclusive private schools, for super 200 bedroom houses that look all the same because that is what sells, or going to the same, exclusive clubs and restaurants.
I am talking also about the normal, ordinary stuff like organising a Birthday Party for my child.
I wanted to live in a vibrant, inspiring, creative and diverse city, and London was exactly all of this when we first moved here in 2006. I see that London is now slowly turning into a money making machine where everything has become increasingly expensive for the sake of it.
At this rate, even the crazy colourful punks – so typical of a once more interesting London – are now forced to wearing a tie and go to work in a bank to afford to continue to live in Camden.
Even the beautifully mixed landscape of London is rapidly changing.
Forget about low Victorian houses. More and more hypermodern tall skyscrapers and shopping centres are being built to make more money out of the small piece of land that London offers. Extensions are built to raise the price of a house of 30% no matter how odd they may look.
The “wording” in the world of property reflects this change. New buildings are advertised as either luxury apartments.
Is this kind of lifestyle what I want for me and my family? I am honestly not sure.
I have started questioning this crazy lifestyle trend recently, when I felt the terrible pressure of choosing Ethan’s school, and facing the battle between private education or state school.
We live in a good area where there are good state schools, but at the same time there is no guarantee that he is going to get a place into only of the schools we want. So, we fell into the trap of doing what everyone else does, and we blindly registered him onto some private schools just because they are “the good ones.”
The question is, how on earth are we supposed to know what our kid is going to be like, or what his aspirations in life will be? 2 years ago he seemed a drawing prodigy and now he can barely draw circles, while lately he is showing a stupendous ability to create stories.
So, when one of those selective private schools called Ethan to go through an interview process, I found myself thinking it was crazy, but after much thinking, Carlo and I decided to go nonetheless to see for ourselves. I had no expectations what-so-ever, but only hoped Ethan would go through without trauma, or even worse, drama. To my total surprise, only a couple weeks after, he was offered a place, that we decided to decline because we realised that it was not what we wanted for our son.
Carlo and I are now dreaming of the seaside, and a simpler life because sometimes we feel trapped in a rat race we do not want to be part of. We like to live in a pretty and shabby place that has plenty of character, light and an industrial feel and is far from being glossy. We do not like to live in a place that makes the cover of the latest issues of Interior Design, but a warm and cosy place we and our friends can call home.
We somehow love the vibrant and the messy look of East London because it still feel alive with creativity, and it fuels our passion for people and photography.
When we decided to start our own photography venture and incorporating our true passion into our work to make our lives worthwhile, we pulled away from the hamster wheel, but it now feels more and more challenging to get away from it when you have a child and you live in London.
So, who knows what comes next? In the meantime, with a pang of sadness in my heart, I dream of the seaside, and a simpler life.