Friday, 6 October 2017

Leaving London and moving to the country

In my 34 years on this planet I've lived in 17 different houses, but not one of them has ever affected me like this one. I'm sitting in an empty, echoing kitchen on a camping chair as I type this and in a few hours men in a big truck will come and pick up the last of our belongings and we'll drive down to our new home on our smallholding in rural Hampshire. But for now, I can't sleep for thinking about how much I will miss this place and this city. I've lived in London for more than a decade and I've had the absolute time of my life. This bright and vibrant lively place has been a much beloved home and whilst I fully believe that this move out of London to the country is the right decision for us, I'm quite surprised at how much I'm mourning the imminent loss of this town. 

It appears that an awful lot of thirty-somethings in London reach that milestone birthday and start to pine for a slower River Cottage-esque life in a vague sort of way. Suddenly dinner conversations regularly drift into country village musings, into mumbled "wouldn't it be nice to have some more space" territory that is then left hanging as everyone pours themselves into taxis to go home, checking out property in the Home Counties on their phones as they go. Slowly but surely, a lot of our friends are actually starting to make the move and tomorrow it's time for us to join their number. 

For years now we've been enjoying the city as a family but we kept thinking that actually our son would probably quite like a larger garden, some animals to look after, more country walks, and a smaller community and we've kept an eye on the property market. When our little smallholding came up we snaffled it up, and all of a sudden we're off to start a new rural life and if I'm honest, it's all so sudden that my head is still spinning.

There seems a bit of a conspiracy between those that choose to leave London. They airily talk about how dreadfully dirty London was, how the people were cold and cross, how the commute was awful and the garden tiny, how crime, house prices and terrorism were rising and how glad they are to have left that horrid place and I find it a bit socially awkward because I can't bring myself to agree. Yes, we will have more space, and a safer place to live, and I'm sure we'll have a lovely local community but I love London with a deep and abiding strength of feeling and I'm sorry to be leaving it. I'm sorry to leave our friendly road, where we know most people to say hello to. I'm sorry to be leaving a city where I've never once had to ask for help with a pram on a train. I'm sorry to leave the culture and the buzziness and the architecture and the constant entertainment at my fingertips. And I'm sorry to be leaving my friends because I'm scared I'll be lonely in that new place where we know nobody and will have to start from scratch. I've never had that easy ability to make friends that I've always envied in others and the thought is daunting.

But possibly (and unreasonably) most of all, I'm sorry to leave this house that I have loved so much. The very first time we viewed the house, we stepped inside and just knew that this was the one. I have never loved a home like this. It was here that we planned our wedding and where we returned as newlyweds. It was here that we brought home our little boy in a gloriously joyful state of chaos to learn how to be a family. It was here that we crawled home, dazed and broken to grieve after our little girl was stillborn. It was here that our little family flourished and was happy. This house has seen our annual Boxing Day party grow bigger each year, has seen raucous family Sunday lunches that stretch out into the evenings, dinner parties that ended with appallingly bad singing of folk songs, lovely lazy family days spent quietly playing train sets and jigsaws, regular gatherings of friends and family, birthday parties, rainy days spent in front of the fire with a huge stack of storybooks and drawing paper, Easter egg hunts and so much more. The garden has been completely re-done multiple times and my son helped to plant a lot of it. The house has changed out of all recognition, modified and extended whilst we camped out inside it in a building site. It seems extraordinary to me now that so much could have happened to us in such a short period of time. But now the only sound in this large room is the echo of the keys I type on (and, rather less poetically, the smaller of our cats scratching to go out into the garden). This house is a part of me and leaving it is heartbreaking. 

But life changes. We will move on, we will have new adventures, create new memories, and make a new home for ourselves and our little family. We will make new friends and enjoying having the old ones to stay. We're actually only a couple of hours from London and so doubtless we'll be up to town on a regular basis. This is the right decision and now is the right time to go and I have no doubt that we will be blissfully happy. I'm grateful that I had the chance to live in London and I do think we took full advantage of it. I'm excited beyond belief about our new project and I think it's going to be brilliant fun. But tonight, alone in this room, I am also sad that this glorious chapter of our life is drawing to a close. I will miss you London, and I will miss you, beloved little house, not least because of the memories of those within you. 

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