I’m going to be honest with you, having to blog is quite painful right now. Mostly because I am currently trying to write 10,000 words per week of my novel, which means five evenings a week I’m doing 2000 words. I’m having Wednesdays off as that’s when I go to do my session at the Faber Academy. Sunday is my Day of Rest (the only day that Oli doesn’t work, and so the only day we get to spend as a family). So having to open the laptop again today is a little bit depressing, but I don’t want to stop blogging because I do so love the sound of my own voice. And I’m sure you lot do too (heh heh).
(On a sidenote, trying to write 10,000 words a week, last thing at night after the baby has been bathed and put to bed, and I’ve cooked my own dinner, is quite challenging (read: exhausting). I am slightly regretting my over-enthusiastic target. However, I know that if I don’t stick to it I won’t finish my first draft by the time Oli finishes his show. So, onwards till my fingertips fall off and my brain is completely fried, etc etc).
But that’s not what this post is meant to be about. We’ve been living in the new house for a good three months now, and I wanted to share my thoughts on the things that I miss about living in the Big Smoke (does anyone call it that these days?). So here goes, as always, being completely honest…
- The shops. This makes me inordinately shallow, I am aware. But I miss living near good shops. We were about a 20 minute walk into Wimbledon town centre from my old flat and it really had most of the things you needed, thanks to the wonder that is Elys department store. There was also a massive M&S right next to my flat, full of lovely baby clothes (plus ready-meals for lazy days), as well as a Mothercare and a Dunelm Mill (yes I lived by a retail park, yes it was ugly, yes it was bloody useful). Where we are now has a decent enough town centre (big Sainsbury’s) but it’s all very chainy and depressing – Next and Monsoon and places like that that I’d never go in (retail snob). It also has a teeny Debenhams. Debenhams is the shittest department store of all department stores. I’m sorry, but it is. Who actually buys Debenhams clothes? Someone must do, but I am still bewildered by why they would.
- The transport options. The tube is disgusting and overcrowded and filthy, but my god, is it convenient and easy. I was about five minutes from the tube in my old flat, and I also had buses galore outside my doorstep (this also had its downsides obviously) and could get to Oxford Circus in 20 minutes. As well as this, I could walk to Wimbledon and get on a different tube line AND the overground, so transport options were plentiful. I can’t overestimate how important this is if you’re travelling into town on a regular basis. It just makes life SO much more pleasant when public transport goes tits up, as it invariably does.
- Deliveroo. Deliveroo deliverdon’t round here. (I am a little less upset about this after reading that they are shit to their staff.)
- Indie restaurants. We have Pizza Express, GBK, Wagas, Carluccio’s – all perfectly serviceable for a quick lunch. But there’s nothing that special on our doorstep – nothing unique, no interesting new cuisines to try. There IS however an awesome chippy, which we have been to about 97 times since moving in.
- Public services. No, not dodgy loos or telephone boxes. But things like the doctors and dentists. For all its faults, London seems to be pretty well catered for when it comes to your health. I could walk to both my doctors and my NHS dentist from my flat, and both were excellent. Since moving here I’ve been looking into finding a new GP for us all and most of them aren’t taking new patients – as for NHS dentists, it’d be easier to find a Labour voter. Surrey people seem to like paying for the dentist. I don’t understand why. I am so cross about this, in fact, that I’ve decided to carry on going to my old dentist for now. If this is immoral or illegal, then please tell me off in the comments (not sure I’ll care however).
- Uber. I suspect Uber does operate round here (just about) but the price of a cab home from central London would be about the same as our weekly shop, rather than the £15 or so it used to be.
- Oyster cards. I should have put this one up there with trains really. But in order to get into town now I have to buy a paper ticket! It’s so quaint! It’s also very confusing, what with off-peak this and super off-peak that and restrictions on what time you can sneeze at London Waterloo… We’re just outside zone 6 out here, so we also have to shell out more than £20 for a one-day travelcard. Ouch.
- Last but very not least – my friends. I miss my London pals. Most of my friends are still London pals (although hurrah for school friends who live near where we’ve moved to!). A few London mates have moved out, like us, but many of them are still in town and lots of them are in SE London, which is a proper trek from me now. Sniff.
BUT do I regret it, despite all this? Absolutely NOT. Here are just some of the things I love about living out of London…
- The space. This counts for about five points up there I think. We have space! We have a big garden. We have a front garden. We have a garage. We have off-street parking. It is so lovely not to feel hemmed in on all sides by people and buildings and traffic. It’s the most freeing, stress-releasing thing ever. Big thumbs up.
- The air quality. It is awesome. I walk home from the station and maybe one car goes past, and I realise that I can’t smell drains or fried chicken or diesel fumes. OK, so it’s not quite the Scottish highlands, but I really think it’s made a difference to the way I feel.
- The people. There are less of them which just makes everything more peaceful, and hands down, people are politer. People in London are so busy, so stressed, so ‘in the middle of something’. Here, people take time to smile at you, hold doors open, have little chats with Daph. It’s so strange, in fact, that first of all I found it a bit unnerving. But whenever I take Daph to Sainsbury’s we get stopped by the cashiers, or little old ladies who want to find out how old she is (and try to make her wave, which is embarrassing, because she usually blows them a raspberry instead). But it just feels so much friendlier as a community. This has surprised me a lot, because I always thought London had a great community feel, but I guess that was just pockets of people in amongst lots of transient people who were just there for work or whatever. So it never felt quite like this. The neighbours here are all very friendly and came round to say hello as soon as we moved in, but they are polite enough to keep their distance too.
- The proximity to my folks. OK, this one is a bit niche, but it’s lovely that I’m now only a 20 minute drive from my parents. It’s made babysitting opportunities much more frequent (hurrah!) but also means we don’t have to sit in terrible traffic every time we want to visit them.
- And on that note, the traffic. It has its moments round here (school rush hours etc) but mostly it’s A DREAM. Wimbledon is basically a 24 hour car park. I could easily spend 25 minutes driving a mile and a half. I wish I was exaggerating, but if you’ve ever sat going nowhere fast on Kingston Road you’ll know I’m not.
- The proximity to parks and stuff. And the countryside. And the motorways. All pretty self explanatory – because we don’t have to negotiate London traffic to get anywhere, everything’s a lot more accessible.
- The quiet. You can hear a bloody pin drop outside our house. It’s insane. And on that note, have I mentioned that cul de sacs are AMAZING? Everyone should live in a cul de sac. It puts your quality of life up by about a million percent. As well as your Amazon Prime expenditure (my ‘safe place’ = my front porch).
- The hedgehogs. We have hedgehogs in our garden. NEED I SAY MORE.
So yes, that’s my little round up. I’ll probably think of a million things to add to this later but for now I’m off to have my dinner. Hope it’s helpful if you’re trying to make a decision to move out of London or not. I will say that without Daph as a priority, we probably would have stayed in Wimbledon, but I’m so glad we didn’t because I really do prefer this way of life now. Call it old age, call it tired of London, tired of life, but I think there’s something really important to be said for slowing down the pace a bit, taking time to appreciate peace and quiet. It’s made a huge difference to my wellbeing.