Positives and Niqabs

Well. As much as Monkey obviously loved football practice, I’m not sure how sustainable this is – heading across town all the way into the deepest, darkest East End is a MISSION. It took one hour and ten minutes one way, and that was with train connections that were smooth and perfectly timed.

I’m really not a fan – anything east of London Bridge and anything south of Clapham I consider a dump. North and West London do have their shit holes too, but East and South East are awful. No redeeming qualities at all as far as I’m concerned. So. Isle of Dogs. I always enjoy spending time with Monkey, so getting nearly two and a half hours in total of pure, uninterrupted chat time with my little man was absolute bliss. I enjoy his company so much and during every single stage of his life I’ve thought “surely this is the best time, it can’t get any better” only to get to the next one and discover it can and does. My gorgeous little chimp.

The train journey – albeit looooooong – was the only good thing about it, bar for the fact that Monkey onviously had a great time playing football. Those were the only positives. As soon as we got off the driver-less (and therefore freaky) DLR train, I immediately got the urge to grip my handbag a little tighter and made a mental note to take a cheaper one next time. It’s just not a nice place, even the atmosphere is different. No greenery to speak of, just endless council estates and mean looking people everywhere. I decided there and then that if we made it to Monkey’s football practice and back without getting mugged and/or stabbed, I’d celebrate with a bucket of Sauvignon Blanc once back in my beloved Chiswick.

Luckily the pitch was right by the station, just across the road and down a couple of hundred yards. Got there, and as soon as we did, it started raining. Great. Monkey took off and joined the coach and other kids (all older than him and twice his size – my Ex got him in because he’s quite good, apparently, so playing with older/better kids should do him good as he’ll have to try harder). Had it not been scummy East London, I would have taken my laptop but figured a bright apple shining on the back of the display would attract undesirables and have me beaten up, stolen from and urinated on by some crystal meth nutter, so I made do with a notebook instead. Of the non-electrical variety, that is.

The place was quite eerie, just me and one other parent (a taxi driver from Essex, as it turned out, who was WAY too keen to talk about the footie wonder that was his overweight son), and where I parked my round butt under a roof bit, there was no one around and it was badly lit which added to my discomfort. Oh well, all in the name of Monkey business. He’d better get me into a nice nursing home. I was still buzzing from a fantastic day of writing, so I noted down all the ideas that I had whirring around in my head in order to organise them a little.

A little while later I notice a group of 20-odd kids who are marching. Like, proper marching military style. For a moment I couldn’t work out if this was army related or some sort of guerilla practice, but I didn’t care to find out, so put my notebook away and went up to the pitch to watch Monkey instead. As I stood there, the marching maniacs had silently and probably totally deliberately marched right up to where I stood, and I nearly had a heart attack. I’m all for freedom of expression/speech/religion and anything else, but I find some head gear quite frightening. I turned around and I had a girl approximately five inches from my face, staring at me through the peephole in her muslim outfit, surrounded by her other marching maniacs. They all laughed and I forced a laugh too. Not what I needed in this eerie back yard of a school building.

When we were looking for a childminder for Monkey when I was going back to work, a lady we saw wore the full get-up, i.e. only her eyes visible. She was ever so lovely, and I battled with myself and agonised over my views on it, but in the end we went with someone else – I have one close friend who wears her niqab like that and I respect her choice, but all I could think about was my one-yearold falling over in the playground and have a black ghost like figure running towards him. Although, that’s probably not what a one-yearold would think, right? That’s something I, as an adult, has for whatever reason been conditioned to think and feel given I am from a different culture. Who knows.

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