And yet a life by the sea beckoned for Sophie Morris
Is moving house really one of the most stressful life events we’ll face? When my husband and I packed up our baby and our belongings in 2017, it wasn’t the strain of completing on a house purchase that was getting to me. It was the dread of the unknown. We were moving from a city of nine million people to a coastal town of 25,000 where the MP is a former deputy leader of Ukip.
Two years ago we had no friends and no family here. We were DFLs (Down from Londoners), swept east to Thanet by the economic gusts driving city dwellers in their thirties and forties to seek fresh air and a patch of garden outside of the North Circular. In 2017, 336,010 people left London (according to the ONS), an increase of 44,380 from the previous year.
People talk about London breaking them, of the noise, the cost, the busyness and the bad attitudes. I thought I’d die there, happily inhaling the traffic fumes as I traversed the city on foot. I lived equidistant (in travel time) between my parents’ house near Manchester and Paris. It was a 20-minute walk to Oxford Street. Now I’m a five-hour drive from family and an 80-minute, £30 train ride from Kings Cross.
But I am so happy we moved here. At parties I am sought out and begged to validate someone’s inklings to leave the capital, whether for a new life in Bristol or Manchester, or to open a yurt village in Bulgaria. I’m happy to apply a one-size-fits-all response to this dilemma: do it. The result might not be perfect, but I guarantee it will be more satisfying than 50 years of wondering “what if ?” Moving has shifted my perspective as well as my lifestyle. I’ve remembered that, before the capital, I hoped to live in many places. It has re-energised my life and my relationships. I don’t have a bunch of new best mates, there’s no shortcut to years of friendship, but I do have great people to hang out with, and a better social life.
There’s not space here to go into the shameful state of Britain’s housing system. But the impact of people like me moving to smaller towns is not inconsiderable. Like everyone else, we need somewhere to live that works for our budgets and our sensibilities, but much of Thanet is earmarked for new homes and the green space is disappearing. We hope we can be part of the solution and decentralise the economic and creative power which makes the capital the wonder that it is, but has kept other parts of the country from flourishing.
I will always love London, but I worry about it, like it’s an old friend with self-destructive tendencies. Meanwhile, I’m happy over here breathing sea air. Come join me.