Life in London is centred around school, household chores and Arabic or Bengali classes. Here's what Fatima tells us about her daily routine on a school day.
School is at nine o'clock and even sometimes the baby wakes up in the middle of the night and I have to wake up yeah … because of the screaming and then I go to sleep again and we're like always late … wake up at eight thirty and stuff like that … the only time I have to wake up early is when my mum puts on an alarm clock … then after that we brush our teeth and stuff and then obviously it’s nine o'clock when you're still walking and everyone is up … they [the school] give us homework and stuff and I never done my homework 'cos I never have time and then there is only two hours for me … time goes so quick that time … I have to feed my brother, then I have to eat and then I have to do more stuff. And then Arabic lesson till seven o'clock and then cooking with my mum and then washing and watching the news and then eating. [Fatima aged 9, East London].
For the research project we asked the children to keep diaries of what they did at weekends and during holidays: having to do chores, getting fed up with brothers and sisters and feeling bored were major themes! Fatima told us: I wash all the cups and stuff and I cut the onions and I make rice and I do most stuff like I have to give stuff to her [mother] when she tells me to.
Having relatives close by is an important part of life in London, as Anita tells us:
Anita: I live in a building and I am in number three and … on the first floor and my cousin (uncle's dad's brother and his children) just lives in number one. …We call him like 'Abu' that means Dad. We call him in a sweet way, Daddy instead of Uncle.
Q: So he’s like another dad to you?
Q: So Abu is very close by. How often do you see him?
Anita: Like every two minutes.
While having relatives nearby is a comfort, children can also feel vulnerable in the urban environment. Mad Max (the children in the research chose their own pseudonyms) had the following story:
Q: Do you like it in Whitechapel?
Mad Max: Yeah, but it's a bit too crowded.
Q: Is it?
Mad Max: Horrible.
Q: What's horrible about it?
Mad Max: It's too crowded… It's really crowded and messy. And sometimes, once I slipped there… and I hurt my head.
Q: Oh, God. What, in the market there?
Mad Max: Um, no. On the road.
Mad Max: Yeah. I saw something like a squashed banana as well, stepped on it and slipped.
Many children talked about the problems of violence and crime in their neighbourhoods. Fatima, for example, made the following comments:
... The girls throw litter at our house … We never complain … Once we did, but the council didn't do anything and … they throw beer cans and stuff like that.
I'm really scared of my building 'cos there are kind of drugs people there … That's why I’m scared … You know [so-and-so's brother]? He has lots of gangs and sits down on the stair … That's why it's really scary and they shout "Whoa, whoa," like that, and then I get scared … On the second floor I saw this gang smoking stuff and sometimes they spit at people so sometimes the police chase them so sometimes it's kind of scary...
Jake describes his fear of the people he sometimes encounters on the stairwell of his tower block:
When we get ready to go in the lift, sometimes we see some white people and a few girls or some dark people … we see them hanging around there …They are like teenagers or something [told with apprehension] and my mum says: 'How are we going to get past them?' and my dad says 'It's all right,' and I just walk past them…