One night in my mid-twenties I’d gone out out after work with my friend Nick and we’d ended up getting empty-stomach drunk on lots of beer. After mulling over our choices, Nick came up with the options of “carry on as we are…or move onto spirits.” I do believe we moved on to spirits, and a massive hangover. And for the next few months, this question prefixed every decision we made between continuing with something, or doing something completely new and different.
I’m telling you this story not to illustrate how sad my liver must have been at that time, but because Alex and I at a crossroads – albeit far less alcoholic, and nothing to do with Britney Spears – and it sprung to mind.
As I’ve said before, London house prices are beyond ridiculous, and we’re coming to terms with the fact that we’re never going to find a lovely, cheap-ish house in a nice area. So the choice at the moment is to carry on and stay where we are – which isn’t feasible when we’re considering the big old second baby question in the next couple of years – or take the ‘move onto spirits’ option of the big and scary step out of the city; to move on and move out.
Everyone asked when we got pregnant if we’d move away and we said no, of course not, absolutely not an option. It seems like such a cliche, and a cop-out. We’ve lived in London for a combined total of 22 years, our jobs and most of our friends are here. But those old chestnuts of space to grow, a garden for the baby that’s not three storeys down, quality of life and the appeal of going up the stairs to bed are whispering seductively in our urban-dwelling ears.
It’s a big step, and where do we go to? Wherever we live still needs to be within a reasonable commuting distance of London for work and seeing our friends. We’d like to be closer to my parents in Bournemouth, and within easy access to driving routes to Sheffield (Alex’s parents). We want somewhere that has all the benefits and features of a city or a busy town, and of course it needs to be a nice and safe place to bring up children.
Looking at the map, this leaves us with a southern triangle where everyone wants to live, and where house prices aren’t that much cheaper on top of a much more expensive commute. And it’s an area we’re pretty clueless about, so any ideas?
Answers on a postcard please (or in a comment! I asked this on Twitter recently but would love any more suggestions. Lots of people suggested Brighton and Hove but sadly I think they’re just that bit too far). But my turn at the bar, right?
Photos are: the view of London from Norwood Park, and the sign from the park with all the major landmarks on.