Wednesday, 25 February 2009

The School Run

"Come on, hurry up!" I say to my son. "We're going to be late!"

We leave the flat, call the lift, then go down. At the bottom there is glass everywhere. The window is still in the front door but looks as though giant snowflakes have been carved into it. Crunch crunch crunch over the million shards, we step outside and race to school, getting there as the whistle goes. The bell rings. My son doesn't give me a kiss like all the other sons do for their mammas. He never does as he says his love for me is "private".

"How are things?" I say to O's mum as I walk away. "The lift is broken in my block and I have to walk up 18 flights of stairs. I can't face it," she says. Eighteen! And I complain about seven!

She tells me there are two lifts but whilst one is being repaired, the whole system has been shut down. "Yesterday I had to carry her all the way up," she says looking down at her two year old. "I only got to the 10th and I was exhausted. Still, it's good exercise..." I laugh. "The only way we can deal with it is seeing it like that."

I get to the maisonettes, which are part of my estate and see Peggy, E&R's mum. I tell her the window's been smashed in my block. "Aye, there's a lot of care in the community folk live there. Last week one of them pulled a knife to E's throat." She called the police and E gave a statement, but because E's friend, who was with her in the playground at the time, wasn't allowed to by her own mother, the police "can't do anything." Peggy's angry but her voice is so soft. The girls are 10 years old.

I tell her perhaps the other mother was scared of the repurcussions on her own family, which is why she wouldn't allow her daughter to give a statement. Peggy thinks it over.

She says she'll tell the police that if it happens again, she'll take the matter into her own hands. "The police know me. I'm on first name terms with them at Holborn," and she laughs, embarrassed. She's quite serious though. Shouldn't one statement be enough? What needs to happen?

I round the corner to my block. A maintenance van is parked alongside the playground. "Have you come to fix the window?" I ask the man. He looks bemused, doesn't know what I'm talking about. "Come and see," I say. Kosovan dad is there waiting for the lift. "What do you think it is?" I ask them both. Earlier my son had thought it was caused by a brick and then changed his mind and said a gun.

We look at the damage, circles where the glass has seized and fractures like strands of hair that spill out of them. Repair man thinks its bullet holes. Kosovan dad thinks its probably caused by a repeated pounding with a metal rod. The lift arrives. "You getting in?" he asks.

I get home and make myself a cup of tea. The glass will be cleared up by the time the kids come back from school, our caretaker's a good man. One hopes the window will be replaced as well. That's my school run this morning.

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