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I knit, I sew, I run, I look after children and hamsters, I take truly terrible pictures, I cook, I complain.  Sometimes all at the same time.

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Out of Love with London

What have Bristol, Frome, Norwich, the New Forest and Littlehampton got in common?  They are all NOT LONDON, and places where I have visited recently and thought, yes, I could live here.  I'm having a bit of an "anywhere but here" moment, with severe house and space envy.  It's not that our house isn't a wonderful place to live - it is, we're opposite a park, and it's big enough and we're not on top of our neighbours at all - but, but, but the other places are just better.  They aren't in London for a start.

I used to love London with a passion.  I lived in Rotherhithe, I could walk to work in the City (I didn't), I used to walk from Soho to Waterloo after a night out all the time, crossing the bridge by the Festival Hall, and nipping in for a wee as I went passed.  The bus stop was busy enough to feel safe, but never so busy that you couldn't get a seat on the bus.  We went to Othello at the National on our wedding anniversary, (I know! so romantic) and I had a terrible pang of homesickness and nostalgia.

But now it's just a terrible pain to get anywhere in the centre, especially with the kids.  I took them in at the beginning of the holidays, and everything we wanted to see was closed for restoration, or off sick, or had gone to Amsterdam.  And it was heaving with tourists, and the tube was ghastly, and Hattie was a massive pain in the bum, and kept running away, although Lucy was wonderfully behaved, and held either my hand or the buggy whenever she was asked.  The only good thing was the number of people who helped me with the children - taking the buggy if Hattie was in it, watching them walking hand in hand and sighing when she wasn't; someone even held the girls' hands on the escalator at Oxford Circus when I was struggling with the buggy.

The friends we visited in the West Country have houses that are same size or slightly bigger than ours, but with considerably bigger gardens, and costing considerably less.  Everything is within walking distance: we wanted to go to the Bristol Harbour Festival, and to traipse around central Bristol looking for Gromits, and we were able to park near the centre and walk around.  No getting on and off trains, up and down stairs and escalators, no buggering about with tubes.

We went to Norwich for a romantic mini-break; Simon works with Aviva and it was our 6th anniversary, so I went with him, and the girls had a sleepover with Granny and Grandpa, so we stayed in a hotel and went out for a meal, as well as having lunch together two days in a row.  I walked round and round Norwich, shopping, browsing, stopping for coffee, and everything was close and everywhere was walkable, and it was just, for want of a better word, nice.  There's an enormous John Lewis, and a Marks and Spencers, and a Waterstones, and what else do you need?

These small cities are very easy to live in and have a good life - big enough to be not villages or sleepy market towns, but small enough not to feel like totally anonymous places where you wouldn't recognise your next-door neighbour if he stood on your foot in Tesco.  I have bad house and neighbourhood envy at the moment.  Realistically, we're never going to move from Ealing.  We've got Lucy into an excellent school, we've got good friends and good neighbours, and, while Simon can work from anywhere, nice places to live tend to attract teachers, ending up with a shortage of jobs, so I would be stuffed.  Plus, I don't think that the difference between our outgoings now and our outgoings then would mean that I wouldn't have to work.  I think the thing to do is to fall in love with London again; to battle PEOPLE and go into the centre again, to wander around and perhaps have an adventure or two in the great outdoors, starting next week with a trip to Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

1 comment:

  1. Norwich does have lovely shops, cathedral and parks and it is def walkable, but it is incredibly cliquey - I come from there - my friend moved there from London and it took her four years to make a friend (who wasn't from Norwich). Another friend (also from London) lived there for eight years and never found friends. I think it sounds as though you have your friends, neighbours and schooling sorted, which is great, so I agree with your last para about falling in love with London again. I hope you do. : )