London, my letter to you
As you’ll see from my bio, I’m a proud Yorkshireman despite not having lived in gods own county for 10 years and a few days since I moved to University. My decision to move to High Wycombe was not a conscious one, but the chase of an interesting university course that led me there. High Wycombe was close enough to London that it meant I occasionally made the trip into the big smoke from our leafy university town, but rarely was it out of choice.
You see this Yorkshireman had no interest in the big faceless city of strangers, this Yorkshire man grew up on a quiet street in York where from my 6 closest neighbours, my family were the newest addition to the street… back in 1986. Six degrees of separation doesnt exist in York, not because we couldn’t count above three, but because everybody knew everybody. Being the son of a plumber and a teacher, this feeling couldn't have been amplified further.
“I can’t be the only person fast approaching 30 staring across the breakfast table at unfamiliar faces, asking if its all worth it.”
After three years in High Wycombe, 14 months in Derby at my first job and a few layovers in York between times—the small gaps of unemployment—I was offered a Job in Thirsk as a designer at a cycle company—this actually predates my times of cycling obsession. To cut a long story short, that didn’t happen and I had to revert to a job offer I had dismissed. A job in London.
Almost five and a half years after I arrived with nothing but a bike and a backpack, London is now the place I call home. It turned out not to be the big beast that I thought it was. The faceless grey London you hear so much about exists, but its the playground of the faceless and grey that work and inhabit it, the square mile. Rarely do I ever feel the need to venture there.
The bit where people actually live, is more like an interlocking series of small villages with evenly dispersed amenities never far away. This actually makes the classical town structure of centralised amenities surrounded by residential area’s feel like a chore.
In short, I fell in love with you London.
Meanwhile my career feels like its gone from strength-to-strength. I have a strong role, in a respectable company and I’m earning good money doing it. But I’ve worked very hard to get to this point and it feels like London is doing its part.
When people ask me where I live, I’m very proud to say a lovely area of Leytonstone. Its quite far out for a lot of people, and it certainly doesn’t have that central lifestyle feel. I like it, which is just as well as it about the only place i can afford to live.
‘“My desire to change things doesn’t come from a want to have my own back garden for my child to grow up in, but to have my own space”
When people enquire about my home setup, I tend to list the caveats first. I have to explain ‘its a lovely big house, with a garden and a drive. Its 1000 meters from the base of Epping forest’, but eventually you have to get to the crux of the issue.
Im 28, I’m a junior creative director in an international PR company, and I still have to share my home with 6 other people. A home thats by far one of the best value for money rents I’ve come across in London—if my landlords reading this, please don’t increase my rent.
Before, I go any further, I feel like I should explain. Rarely do I ever go drinking in the evening, I’m not one of those people who gets paid on a Friday and is skint again by Monday. And beyond having a slightly expensive cycling obsession I feel like I spend wisely on what I deserve for my daily grind. I think the most worrying aspect is that I also have no, absolutely zero savings to my name. And as I mentioned before, my teacher/plumber parent combo wont be leaving me a shed load of inheritance either to put a deposit on a flat of my own.
I’m not helped by being eternally single—11 years and counting—so I don’t have anyone to split the cost of our own place with. And despite all of the amazing things that have gone my way since being in London, theres no way I could take on the fiscal burden of downsizing from my 7 person abode without giving up all the things in life I feel like my hard work affords me.
Im fast approaching my 30’s—just over a year to go—and i feel ashamed by the idea of entering it still having to share a house with a revolving door of six strangers. This wasn’t the life my last 10 years of work was meant to afford me. I look in envy at those who stayed in York, those who didn’t go to university and maybe haven’t had the amazing career I’ve been fortunate enough to it have. I look in envy as they live their pre 30’s lives in the comfort of their own home, everything planned out.
London needs to look at itself. I can’t be the only person fast approaching 30 staring across the breakfast table at unfamiliar faces, asking if its all worth it. I remember reading an article a few years ago highlighting the wave of 30-something couples leaving the capital and their jobs, to start up families in towns where they could afford their own homes. In doing so they created an employment hole in their awake, with companies loosing some of their best and most talented staff to the good life.
Im worried this exodus is about to go one step further. My desire to change things doesn’t come from a want to have my own back garden for my child to grow up in, but to have my own space—that, I feel I’ve earned—to come home too, a request much more within the makeup of London’s architecture. But pricing and demand make this impossible, and as the continued proliferation of Generation Y’s realisation that life isn’t all its cracked up to be, London could soon be seeing even more of its young and talent individuals turnings their back.
I’m not planning on going anywhere soon, but as the big three zero looms large, the want for a place I can call home might be the trigger for myself and others taking out skills and experience elsewhere.
I’m looking forward to the day where I can stand atop a tall hills, bags packed and sign off with a lyric from one of my favourite bands from their album all about our great city…
Fuck you London, I’m out.