London, you get to keep me (for a while)

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Trafalgar Square II

For the past few months I’ve been weigh­ing up wheth­er to stay in London or to leave. I’ve lived here since 2011. In that time I’ve been a part-time post­grad (and finished the course), done an inter­est­ing but mostly not well-paid assort­ment of jobs, and lived in an assort­ment of sublets and prop­erty guard­i­an­ships. Since the end of 2013 I’ve lived in a prop­erty guard­i­an­ship that’s unusu­ally cheap, but not at all homely, but far too cheap to give up need­lessly.

My family origin­ally come from London, but I wasn’t born here, and no-one in my family lives here any more. I’ve lived the major­ity of my life in South­ern England, with­in easy reach of London, but outside the city itself, in places with their own iden­tit­ies. So London isn’t excit­ing and novel, but neither am I deeply rooted here. The past 18 months I’ve been living in an area which is cheap, but is on the peri­phery of the city, doesn’t have very good trans­port links, isn’t at all near the other cheap, peri­pher­al areas where my friends live and has very little to interest me with­in walk­ing distance, and I just don’t feel attached to it at all. Since Janu­ary I’ve been cover­ing a mater­nity leave posi­tion which ends in the summer, and pays better than the work I was doing before, enabling me to save some emer­gency money.

I saw a univer­sity course which inter­ested me, to train to be a design teach­er, which also came with fund­ing, so I applied for that. The applic­a­tion, admis­sions and inter­view process were pain­fully slow though, taking a couple of months and keep­ing me in limbo for quite a while. I couldn’t plan anything until I had a firm answer from the univer­sity. If I didn’t get in, would I stay in London, get a differ­ent job and move to an area I liked more, or leave the city and go some­where else?

I weighed up the pros and cons quite a lot. I have some really good friends in London and some great things I’m involved in (like DIY Space for London) and there are endless possib­il­it­ies for things and oppor­tun­it­ies (cue John­son quote). However the cost of living is pain­ful, the city is in the grip of a terrible hous­ing crisis where unreg­u­lated land­lords can squeeze every last penny out of their tenants, and it’s gener­ally quite a pres­sured place to live (although I hear not as bad as New York from people who have lived in both). Whenev­er I visit friends who live in other regions, I envy their living space and qual­ity of life, avail­able at reas­on­able prices. I have friends scattered around the coun­try, I seem to become friends with people who move a lot, but who are also good at keep­ing in touch. I wasn’t really sure about where to move though, there being lots of possible inter­est­ing places I had small ties to, but no big reas­on to move anywhere in partic­u­lar.

Anyway, in the end the univer­sity offered me a place, so in Septem­ber I will be start­ing teach­er train­ing, and I didn’t have to make any decisions this year (what I do once I’ve finished the course next summer remains to be seen). I finish work at the start of July. I need to move house by the end of August to some­where I like more. Maybe I’ll do some summer teach­ing, go on holi­day some­where before I have an intense year of train­ing. Who knows yet, at least I have a plan now.

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