Should I Stay or Should I Go Now?
Every Londoner I know (Ok not every single one but, you know, a lot!) are having that age old debate with themselves - should I stay in London or is the time right to move out and try a different way of life?
You may ask - why would anyone want to move out of London? London is one of the most exciting, vibrant, cultured cities in the world. It's full of random experiences, (the stories you hear on the tubes alone could write a comedy bestseller), bursting with artistic characters and people who want to make the world a better place and educate themselves in how to do so.
The Tories are in office. This means London is becoming even more of a rich mans playground, the Arts is not so much being supported (ha ha ha Arts being supported - I'm hilarious!) as being cut off at conception, historic, stunning buildings are being demolished for more railways and London is, quite frankly, losing it's charm. Then there's the traffic, volume of people blah blah blah. But...to be put it plainly, it's too bloody expensive to live here now! Wages are not reflecting the cost of living (when you actually DO get paid for working - yes I know it was my choice to work in the Arts) and quality of life is being sacrificed.
But where do you go?
There are some great cities in the UK that are starting to be real rivals to London and it's attractiveness. Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle Upon Tyne, Edinburgh, Bristol - all these cities have Arts scenes that could fit snugly into any one of London's corners....and then there's the coastal towns such as Margate, Whitstable even Scarborough that provide enough charm, local produce and character to feel like your own little London could be on your doorstep, and I have always dreamed of my own little chocolate box cottage.
I've lived in London for 20 years and have decided that I'm almost there, the decision is almost made to move out. I say almost because the truth is, I'm terrified.
London is my home and (this is probably true of a lot of major cities) it's addictive, and it's very easy to become institutionalised. You want a Starbucks? There's one on the next corner. Need a cab? Just flag one down. Fancy catching a show? There's 25 starting in half an hour, pick one! Want 24 hr anything? It's right here.
I go to Portsmouth to see my family. Shops close at 5.30. Whaaaaaa? What do you mean the only Starbucks is now actually out of Portsmouth and I have to wait 20 mins for a cab to get there. This drives me nuts. (At this point I should probably say yes I know Starbucks are a tax avoiding, evil corporate machine, but I can't help myself. I love a good Mocha Frap!) And the sad truth is - some people outside London, (and obviously I don't mean everyone if you think I'm talking about you), just those ignorant few, really are very hard to like. Like, walking along the street, minding my own business, and being abused for being overweight, or being told I look like a fat Martine McCutcheon - yep that actually happened. The Hattie Jacques references I don't mind so much.
Then there is watching a clip from the news of why a 50+ white man living in the North voted to leave the EU to keep the Syrians out.......yes, the Syrians (some people shouldn't be allowed to vote!). The truth is, that never happens is London because people accept you for who you are, whatever your body type, sexual orientation, religion, crazy dress sense - no one actually cares, we're all too busy trying to earn enough money to pay our £800 a month for a shed in someones front room - if you didn't see that advert look it up, it's a classic!
BUT. I love the countryside, I love the sea. The idea of waking up and having fresh air flowing into my lungs is irresistible. The smell of the sea is still one that instantly relaxes every molecule of my being. Wandering around Wickham village or a stroll on Portsdown Hill in the Autumn refreshes me instantly (or crawling through overgrown graveyards with my sister in the dark but that's another story), and nothing beats sitting on a beach in Winter when the waves are crashing and the salt spray is turning your hair into a fuzz bomb. Those things I love.
There is one compelling argument that whirls around in my head though - every one of my friends who have moved out of London miss it, but don't regret moving out and wouldn't come back.
So there's my dilemma, should I stay or should I go?