So I moved back to Kent…

Published Categorised as Life in General 2 Comments on So I moved back to Kent…

So I moved back to Kent last week. (I’m knackered after trav­el­ling round Germany for three weeks and then moving house back-to-back). To Margate in partic­u­lar. I grew up in Medway, a little way to the west, but left when I was eight­een to go to univer­sity, as it didn’t feel like there were any oppor­tun­it­ies for me. Nearly fifteen years later, here I am. A lot has changed in that time. London is not a desir­able place for young people to live any more. Not because of crime (going down all the time), or pollu­tion, but because it’s so impossibly expens­ive and offers such a poor qual­ity of life.

I’m still trying to get my head around the fact that people now want to move to North Kent, but there’s no deny­ing the area is on the up now. Wheth­er this is good or bad, and results in uncon­trol­lable gentri­fic­a­tion driv­ing people out like many areas of London is still to be seen in the future. At the moment it’s still afford­able. Ten years ago before they built the Turn­er Gallery, I came with my mum at sunset to see a light show art exhib­i­tion that had been installed on the pier (putting art in Margate was an excit­ing new idea at the time). It was a summer even­ing and the plan was to get some fish and chips. Everything was shut. I used to come with my dad some­times to go to the Shell Grotto, and we’d park in the back streets around where I live now, because you were always guar­an­teed a park­ing spot. The local high street on North­down Road had barely anything open on it. Now there’s a thriv­ing local high street with all sorts of useful shops, and some nice cafes. I was read­ing descrip­tions on a local history website of how the street was in the 60s and 70s, a real nice shop­ping street. You can still see that now with some of the grand build­ings that used to be depart­ment stores.

For your refer­ence, I am here. That’s France, Belgi­um and the Neth­er­lands you can see to the right.

The Good

The sea
The sea is at the end of my street (I can’t see it from the windows), with a small beach. A whole host of spec­tac­u­lar golden sandy bays are either with­in walk­ing distance or a short bus ride. I can see huge ships on the hori­zon in one of the busiest ship­ping lanes in the world (one of the local cafes on the seafront actu­ally provides binocu­lars for you to watch them with).

Inter­est­ing things to see
There’s the Turn­er art museum on the beach, Dream­land fair­ground, and the Shell Grotto (the eeri­est place in SE England).

People want to come and visit
It’s nice living in a place that people want to come to not just to see you. You feel like you’ve got some­thing to show them.

The cost of living
I can afford to live alone in a one bedroom flat, which would be impossible in London. I’m still trying to wrap my London-trained brain around the fact that this is possible and I don’t have to share with six other people and travel an hour to get to anything I want to do. The avail­able amount of space in places like cafes and super­mar­kets still throws me too. I don’t have to get out a bank loan to buy a drink, or fight for seats at the few places I can afford. I still do a double take when I walk past the pub on my street, and they are advert­ising pints for £2.85.

Lots of arts
The area has attrac­ted artists and writers who can’t afford London or Brighton any more. Turn­er and TS Eliot worked here in the past, and Tracey Emin grew up here, so it’s not just a recent thing. There’s people with spare time here, unlike London where every­one has to work all the time to survive.

I am from here.
Not specific­ally Thanet, but Medway, which is fairly close by. My dad is an old man in poor health, and it’s easy for me to go and see him. I know the area. Some of the grot­ti­er aspects of my new neigh­bour­hood don’t really both­er me, as at least the people are a lot nicer and less aggro than those in Chath­am. How nice people in shops and so on are compared to London is also notice­able. Prob­ably because you can actu­ally survive on shop wages here.

The climate
Thanet is one of the driest, sunni­est parts of England. That may not be saying much in compar­is­on to some­where like Cali­for­nia, but it does mean some­thing in the Winter.

That nice climate means there are lots of fruit and veget­ables grow­ing in the area, and a large amount of brew­er­ies due to all the hop-grow­ing. So almost unlim­ited amounts of good beer and cider at low prices. If I ate seafood (I am a veget­ari­an) I could also take advant­age of the local fish and oysters.

Good trans­port
The HS1 line to St Pancras is a real game-changer. In 90 minutes you can be in Cent­ral London, on a nice modern train that usually runs on time. The trains to this area used to be terrible. I remem­ber when I was a teen­ager, I went with my school friend Lucy to Broad­stairs one day in the summer holi­days to meet up with a boy she had met. The train was slow and split into parts at Canter­bury, and it was really hard to figure out what was the correct part of the train to sit in, so we ended up back in Canter­bury a couple of times before we got on the right bit and the whole thing took hours. Now it’s a forty minute jour­ney from our homet­own.

It’s also close to the contin­ent. There used to be direct ferries from Rams­gate to Ostend in Belgi­um, unfor­tu­nately no more, but it’s still easy to take the train to France or Belgi­um, and even easi­er to drive to Dover (and cheap if you fill the car with people-they charge per vehicle not passen­ger). When I was at school it was actu­ally easi­er to go on trips abroad than anywhere north of London, so we used to do things like day trips to Aachen or Cologne.

(PS no-one ever calls it the “Chun­nel”. It’s always the Chan­nel Tunnel)

The Neut­ral

The accent
On the one hand it’s nice to be surroun­ded again by people who speak simil­arly to me, and not feel like anyone’s going to look down on me as “common”. In fact it’s prob­ably an asset, as you’re not seen as an inter­lop­ing posh Down From London. On the other hand, it’s not the most beau­ti­ful of accents, is it?

The Bad

The economy
Tour­ist towns have a very season­al economy. More work than you can handle all summer, and then a big lull over the winter. Added to that the long-term econom­ic crash in the area caused by afford­able travel to Spain since the 60s and lack of invest­ment in the 80s and 90s, which is only now start­ing to very slowly right itself. My street is a strange mix of newly done up build­ings (includ­ing a hotel) and grand old Victori­an houses that are prac­tic­ally fall­ing apart after thirty years of neglect. My land­lord is a build­er who bought this flat to do up. He said some of the other flats he viewed made him feel sorry for the people who lived in them, and ashamed that the land­lords felt ok about char­ging money for a build­ing in that state.

The polit­ics
I now live in the constitu­ency that Nigel Farage has failed to win multiple times, and that has a local coun­cil full of Kippers and Tories, and a current Tory MP. At least in terms of hope for the future it’s a swing seat that has changed hands lots of times, and tends to follow the winner of the Gener­al Elec­tion.

I don’t know wheth­er it’s because Farage is a local man, or because the Contin­ent is terri­fy­ingly nearby that fuels the support for UKIP here. (Along with the econom­ic woes). In fact where I’m sitting right now, those scary Belgians in Ostend are 60 miles directly behind my back. Who knows what those bureau­crats are plot­ting while I’m facing due west?

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  1. hi, i just read yester­day that Margate will be connec­ted to Ostend again by Ferry! so it seems like a very well-connec­ted place. 🙂

    1. That’s good- it’s so close by, it’s sad there was no boat service any more because of poor finan­cial manage­ment. At the moment you have to go to Dover, and then travel up from Calais to get there.

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