Neither of the kids seems traumatised by their first day at Straddlewick; we heave sighs of relief. Then, at tooth-brush-time, Emma says Sean was called names by an older boy in the playground. After years of bliss in a vast London school, Sean is experiencing his first bully in tiny Straddlewick. Still, at least here the kids are unlikely to be exposed to an eight-year-old waving a knife belonging to the local drug-dealers in their faces, as happened once in Camden.
That was a prime factor in our moving decision: the whole kids-with-knives malarkey. We were terrified at the thought of Sean being attacked for venturing into the wrong postcode, whereas out here in the country what's the worst that can happen? He'll fall into a combine harvester.
As for Emma, although her classmates back home - I mean, London - included the daughters of film directors, artists and photographers, she was starting to hang round the white flats with the Turkish twins - who were lovely, as indeed was their mum, but who had a rather "hands-off" approach; she'd disappear inside and leave the kids to roam. When we went to collect Emma she'd be zooming round the walkways on Fliker scooters or popping her head up from an overgrown stairwell.
Would it sound snobbish to admit we didn't want our nine-year-old hanging round overgrown stairwells? I spent years in social housing and Lynda grew up in the largest council estate in our immediate galaxy-cluster (apparently there's an even larger one over in the Fomax nebula) and we wanted her to hang round the posh kids, the sort who have entertainers at birthday parties; not because these children were intrinsically nicer or more interesting but because she was less likely to get into harm's way in a vast walled-in garden than she would hanging round the flats they use when making programmes about gang warfare. You'd think.
Admittedly, I'd also hoped that having the kids mingle with well-to-do types might be good for my career. Once it became apparent that the famous film director (who will remain nameless in case everyone writes to plead with her to adapt my novels) wouldn't after all be bringing my neglected works to the big - indeed, any - screen, indeed seemed to believe I was some sort of policeman, I decided to leave town - to teach her a lesson. So we move to picturesque Old Front Bottom, to the only row of social housing in the village, and naturally here all the well-to-do villagers look down on us because we don't "own."
Apart from scythe-wielding preteens we had another achingly predictable reason for leaving London: house prices. Apart from the Turkish twins most of Emma and Sean's friends lived in houses their parents owned; we'd go to collect the kids and sit drinking tea in vast, labyrinthine homes with Georgian lattices, chandeliers and maids, each room the size of our flat: not that this was ever mentioned. The elephant in the room was the room...
As with our previous place back home our "new" semi in Old Front Bottom belongs to a housing association, and we should have right to acquire. Whereas our London place was valued at twelvety trillion pounds this place might actually be within our reach; although it's a bit small, if we can buy we'll be able to build an extension into the huge, daunting garden.
This, at least, was our theory; but at precisely the same moment we signed our tenancy agreement we were told we might not be able to purchase the semi after all, as this is a rural area and public housing in rural areas is protected - from tenants having the temerity to buy them, though not from floods obviously. So we might not be able to buy the place. Or build an extension. Or make any sort of improvements, ever. Or ever leave...Suggest a correction