Life after London - A year after the big move
I cannot believe it’s been a year already! my word. Admittedly I thought if would be harder than it has been but after the initial settling in period, I realise that once the door is closed it just feels like home. But in my head the move seemed massive primarily because London was all I knew. I was born and raised in Brixton and spent most weekends crossing Tower Bridge to spend the weekends with my Dad in E17. I spent summers working in Camden and being a live in girlfriend in EC1, the entire history of my life played out against the back drop of one of the worlds greatest cities. And then I had kids and begun to see London through a different lens. We were being pushed further and further away from beloved sw9 due to housing costs until we were in a pokey ‘luxury’ flat on the border of south Croydon. But I was Londoner still even if it were only by the skin of my teeth. And that’s all I needed.
Or so I thought.
That pokey flat served it’s purpose until I fell pregnant again and the pregnancy hormones combined with the 468 bus waiting directly outside the ‘Juliette’ balcony leading to our bedroom for at least 40 minutes every morning with the engine running no less, was the final straw. We had toyed with the idea of leaving London for years and now was the time.
When we left London the only inclination we had to the fact that RJ was indeed RJ was Esmè’s unwavering belief that I was carrying ‘her baby brother’. Honestly that made me more confident in my decision. It wasn’t yet what it is now, but beneath the trendy coffee shops and box parks, London was essentially becoming a bloodbath ready to claim the lives of any black boy who dared to walk its streets. The days of having to be gang affiliated were long gone. If you were a black boy that happened to be in the wrong postcode at the wrong time there was a high likely hood you would be beaten up, robbed and potentially left for dead.
Speaking to a friend the other day she said; ‘So basically you chose covert racism over having to prematurely bury your son and I don’t blame you.’
That’s the best way to put it because the lack of diversity that becomes apparent once you leave London is too blatant to ignore.
Esmè was the only child of colour (so not the only black child - the only child of colour PERIOD) at her nursery when we first moved here. She had left a nursery where she was one of too many to count. In fact I’ll go as far to say in her first school setting, white children were actually the minority. But that completely changed once we moved up here and admittedly I was fearful. Whilst both myself and Papa B truly believe that self live begins at home, we aren’t ignorant enough to ignore the fact that our children are going to operate in a space which simply isn’t always for them. Luckily we’ve hand no scenarios where Esmè was picked on because she was different although of course naturally she begun to realise that herself. Those outcome of those conversations are for another day entirely. She is now at school which luckily is far more diverse and helps ease any worries I have about her not being able to see herself reflected in the space she spends most of her time.
Her experience aside, both Papa B and I have nothing but good things to say about the decision we’ve made. For all my worries about missing London and not being close to those I love, I’ve found it to be an education in learning to be self sufficient. My family are small and apart from my Nan and sister, aren’t the most dependable. So even when we were all London together, they weren’t that great of a help. But still moving far away from my imaginary crutch bothered me. But need not have worried. As with all things, since we moved, we have found a way to make it work. Most interestingly it has forced me to go outside of my comfort zone and make friends, speak with my neighbours. I’ve learned that you will need people at some point and even if I want to be an island, I have children now and they deserve to be able to have a support system in place.
The person who had to adjust the least was Papa B. Born in Nigeria and migrating to the uk ten years ago, he is used to leaving his ‘home’ and making one wherever he lays his hat. He has been our rock when I’ve at time become a little shaken by our decision. If he had his way, he would’ve moved years ago.
Anyway, personal feelings aside I get so many questions regarding the move and the best way to go about it. To be honest my advice would be biased and skewed based only upon my own journey which I think is unfair. The ease with which I moved away from my family is different for someone who has a family who helps them out a lot. All things considered I drew up a list of Pro’s and Con’s anyway.
Lower crime rate
A huge back garden
A gravel drive way - free parking (a personal one. In our pokey flat parking then came at an excess cost of 2k per year)
Cost per square feet
A smoother school system
A convenient place to raise a family
An overarching sense of happiness for perhaps no good reason at all.
Sunday’s are genuinely seen as a day of rest
Not the best public transport
No family close by.
Travel costs for work (many of my meetings are in London)
The size of the spiders (this of course is objective)
Higher council tax
Lack of diversity
For me, that final pro outweighs them all: an overarching sense of happiness for perhaps no good reason at all.
I must add that I know I’m privileged to be in position to leave London. I speak with many people whom for one reason or another, usually financially (which may seem to the monetarily solvent as a contradiction but moving is expensive!) they cannot.
I also understand that there are some people who just don’t get it. They are tied to London for life and almost see it as blasphemous to want to leave. What’s funny is that those people are rarely ever true Londoners. They were born somewhere else and have always dreamt of that hustle and bustle. Now they have it, they couldn’t imagine letting it go. Then there are the few who were born and will die in London no matter how killer the house prices or the ferocity of the rental market. I do not argue with those people. That kind of bond cannot be broken.
But we are all so happy here. There isn’t enough money in the land which would aid my return to London. It’s a special place, man it’s my home. But I’ve made a new one and I sure do love it here. And I don’t see that changing anytime soon. Actually Papa B and I agreed that should God spare life, once the kids are gone we may even move further out. So watch this space!