I wrote this story a few years ago for Limehouse Books’ 33 East. A great collection of stories for each of the London boroughs.
I was born in Woolwich and, as a child, Woolwich was a fairy ground to me. It was right by the river, you could hear the ships at night (before the Thames barrier), I loved the common and the market, I loved Woolwich Common Nursery School, I couldn’t wait to go to Mulgrave Primary like my big sister, and the view from our flat three floors up, of the setting sun behind the City, was stunning. When we moved to New Zealand I missed that big red ball of sun terribly (I didn’t realise it was London fog/smog making the sun look like a huge red ball, I just thought it was beautiful). When my mum and I came back to London six years later, the butcher in the market remembered my mother, saying “Aren’t you the lady who went to New Zealand?” … you don’t get that in the big supermarkets. Like my other hometown of Tokoroa, Woolwich has suffered both from negative public assumptions about it, and from some horrible things that have happened there that reinforce those assumptions.
And because I know that no place is the sum of other people’s assumptions, and because my family lived and still live around that part of London, I wrote the following story for the 33 anthology, taking a leap from Swift’s Modest Proposal, re-imagining Woolwich as the shiny part of the borough and Greenwich as the deprived bit. Sometimes all it takes to make a difference is a tiny shift in our assumptions. I share this in hope for Woolwich, and for those who have been hurt by the repercussions of last week’s violence.