What I miss about living in London (and what I don't)

leaving-london-lifebylotte 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...

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Deliveroo. Deliveroo deliverdon't round here. (I am a little less upset about this after reading that they are shit to their staff.)
  4. 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.
  5. 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).
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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...

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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).
  8. 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.

Still alive!

moving-home-lifebylotte Hello!! I'm still alive! We survived the move! The sun is shining and I have a gin to hand. All good things.

Apologies for the radio silence, so much for my two-week break from blogging... Thing is, everyone was right: moving house with a baby is just soooo hard. The problem is not the moving so much as the fact that you don't have any time in the day once you have moved to Get. Shit. Done. It's impossible - Daph sleeps for a maximum of two hours per day at the moment and the first nap is in the morning so I spend it washing my hair and stuff like that (OK, OK, and wasting precious time on the sidebar of shame, but I MISS being able to waste time like that SOOO much), and the second one is just 45 minutes after lunch which I mostly spend checking emails and whinging on the phone to my mum about how busy I am. Hmm.

But when you move, you have to do things like unpack boxes, order furniture, sort out curtains, hang pictures, CLEAN (a lot), find lightbulbs that fit, redirect mail, work out how to use your stupidly expensive new washing machine etc etc. Oh and break up tons of cardboard boxes and try to squeeze them into your fortnightly (!! bloody suburbs) collected recycling bin. So yes, it's all been a bit of a blur.

Meanwhile we've also been going back and forwards to my old flat to try to clear it. I thought I was quite a minimalist person but then I went up into my loft for the first time in about two years and apparently I'm actually the sort of person who hides stuff in my loft and pretends to be minimalist. Why I felt the need to keep every single box for every single thing I ever bought (knackered old kettle, a £20 iron etc) is a bit of a mystery - somewhere in the back of my mind a stupid little voice kept saying 'if you keep the box you'll get more for it on eBay one day' but when on earth am I going to get around to selling an old iron on eBay anyway? Time is money Charlotte, and ain't nobody got time for that. Thank god for London's street freecycle system (leave things outside your flat, the next day they've magically disappeared - it's brilliant).

The good news is that we're starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel, and we're finally getting there with the new house too. It's been an exciting and incredibly expensive two weeks buying new things for the house - we have loads of furniture but of course none of it fits or looks right in the new place. It's like when you get a new job, suddenly you need a whole new wardrobe because all your old clothes aren't quite right. Or maybe that's just me. Either way, we're having to decide what furniture to get rid of, and what to keep, while ordering exciting new things like massive extendable dining tables for all the Christmases we'll probably never host and sideboards (oh so middle-aged) to store Scrabble and Monopoly in. COS WE HAVE A BABY NOW AND IT'S TRADITION TO HAVE BOARDGAMES IN THE SIDEBOARD EVEN IF YOU LITERALLY NEVER PLAY THEM.

I'd love to blog a bit about the new house, if people are at all interested. I'm not sure who reads my blog these days - I get lots of emails from PRs talking about interiors stuff but as all the posts have been baby-related lately I suspect most of my readers are interested in babies. And of course next week we have the momentous occasion of Daphne turning one so lots to talk about in that regard too. If only there were more hours in the day!

Oh god, what a tired old cliche. Yes Charlotte, you're SO busy and important, we get the message...

*shoots self by way of apology*

What I wanted to say in this long rambling and really slightly pointless post is that I will be back, whether you want me or not, and I'm hoping my new mix of topics won't put you off. So there. More soon!

Midweek Musings: All change

leaving-london-lifebylotte I'm sorry I haven't posted for a while. Last week was a very strange week - not just for me, of course, but for the entire country. I woke up (at 5am) on Friday to the news that no one saw coming and it really did shock and surprise me. I want to be positive about it, because there was actually a lot about the EU I really really disagreed with (not least the fact we never actually chose to join the EU as it manifests now), but I hate to see people already suffering the consequences of a decision that has basically split the country in two. I also cannot bear the fact it has given Nigel Farage something to be smug about, and, on a more serious note, given that tiny minority of racists in our country the confidence to air their views publicly.

I don't really want to write more on this because one thing I have realised over the last few days is that there's such a thing as TOO many opinions. TOO many voices, all clamouring for attention. I don't want to be one of them. The media lately has disgusted me to the point I'm ashamed to call myself a journalist (and I know, I'm not a real journalist, I write about cushions but still, it's listed as my profession on my car insurance...). I'm too ignorant and don't think my thoughts consequential or erudite enough. All I'll say is that I feel sad, and especially sad that there is so much anger and contempt on both sides at the moment, and that I hope that we can turn this situation around into something more positive. I don't believe things are black and white - 'in' or 'out' with no middle ground. There has to be a compromise, a solution that both sides can bear. We need someone to take control now and show us true leadership - this is what I'm hoping for in the next few days and weeks.

In the midst of this horrible, historic Friday, something strange happened for us personally. You'll know already if you follow me on social media, but we finally exchanged contracts on the house we've been trying to buy for two and a half months. There was a huge amount of uncertainty leading up to us finally getting the place, thanks to various issues further up the chain. A few times we thought we were going to have to pull out, and once the woman we were buying from threatened that she would pull out. So I can honestly say I never really thought it would happen. And in fact, up to about an hour before it finally happened I still wasn't sure it would, as Oli was having serious doubts about buying somewhere when it's very likely that property prices will now start to drop.

But we went ahead because we believe once you've committed to something for the right reasons, you have a duty to see it through. We get the keys today. Now I have to start choosing wallpaper, shopping for fridge freezers and washing machines (this hasn't got any more interesting since the last time I did it, sadly) and dealing with the momentous task of moving house with a baby. All very exhausting already, but I'm excited.

I decided not to talk much about this house on my blog because after all the ups and downs we've had trying to find a home for our little family I didn't want to jinx it. But I will say now that it's not in London. We had so much soul searching around the decision to move out of the capital. We both love it here, but lately we've also both seen its real and significant downsides when it comes to children - the lack of space, the pollution, the traffic, the tiny gardens and the ridiculously steep house prices (ha! possibly not for much longer). So we're moving to the suburbs. Back to Surrey, where I was born and bred. And ironically, to the very same town that I lived in until I was 13. That in itself seems super weird (not least because hardly anything has changed!) but I had a happy childhood there - pretty much the happiest of childhoods in fact, and that was enough to convince me that I wanted the same for Daphne.

Oli and I have both agreed there's no way we would have bought this house if it weren't for Daph. It's scaring us both already. Stupid little things like not being able to use our Oyster cards at the station (you have to buy paper tickets - how quaint!). And we both love Wimbledon, and I'm going to miss all our little haunts so much. Hell, I'm even going to miss Colliers Wood's Mothercare, where I currently spend 78% of my time waiting to get served. It actually makes me quite emotional even writing this - we're planning to move in in a couple of weeks and I'm already making a list of things we must do 'one last time'. Silly little walks that we used to do regularly, that kind of thing. I've lived here for five years now - the longest I've lived anywhere as an adult - and I really do feel at home here.

But the new house. The house is lovely (pic up there ^). It's a 1960s terrace with an 80ft south-facing garden. It has a garage. I'm fairly sure it has an outside tap (the true marker of adulthood in my eyes - that and paying someone to clean your windows on a regular basis). I will have my own office, which fills me with nerdish joy. It's in pretty good nick but we want to put our own stamp on it, and I am so excited about having the opportunity to decorate again, after so long in my tiny flat with its grey and pink colour scheme that now bores me to tears. I hope to blog about it a lot, so watch this space if you like interiors blogs. (This is meant to be an interiors blog, believe it or not, but I hadn't had much to write about on that front lately. No such excuses now).

So yes, a funny old week. Life moves on, as it must. As Mr Hawking once said: 'Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change'. Change may be hard, but it is inevitable, and change is good for the soul. The future is looking... different.