Why I traded busy London for a quiet life by the coast...
September 2011. There I was, suitcase in hand, in a part of London I couldn't even pronounce. (Suth-ark not South-wark, FYI). I had only been to London twice prior to my Big Move, but the prospect of studying at one of the best fashion schools in the world was one not to be missed. Which is how I found myself to be standing in a box room, in halls, in Southwark, with as many of my possessions as I could transport onto the train from Newcastle.
Like so many others before me, I'd flocked to London with aspirations as high as The Shard, and the excitement of a sausage dog. My new-found infatuation with London lasted a good few years, I must admit. There was always something to do! Things to see! An abundance of Zaras to pick and choose from! Even now, I (shamefully) miss Oxford Street...
"My journey to London all those years ago took me away from my childhood... that afforded me the luxury of being beside the sea..."
But, what I missed more than any amount of Zaras; any number of minutes saved zipping along on the Tube; any number of things to see and do, was one thing: living by the sea. You see, my journey to London all those years ago took me away from my childhood. A childhood that afforded me the luxury of being beside the sea.
"Nothing compared with the golden sands of South Shields..."
Of course, London isn't the furthest from the edge of the country. There's Brighton, with it's famous pier; Southend-on-Sea, and Margate. But, nothing compared with the golden sands of South Shields, where days were spent pretending it was warmer than 20 degrees, building countless sandcastles, and doing cartwheels on the beach until we were dizzy. Neither Brighton or Southend or Margate compared to ice creams in Whitley Bay, and the sweeping alcove of Longsands in Tynemouth.
I do not want to appear ungrateful for the near-enough six years spent living in the capital. I'm the first to tell anyone that my student years were formative for me. My first ever job, working as a Supermarket Assistant at Waitrose in Shepherd's Bush, forced me out of my shell quicker than you can say 'next customer please!'. I made life-long friends in my three years at London College of Fashion. And, I ate enough cake, in enough indie cafes, to satisfy my sweet tooth for decades. (Well, that very last bit might be a lie... can't say no to Sticky Toffee Pudding).
"Where I belong is by the water, with its crashing waves..."
But, I guess what I'm trying to say, as clichéd as this is, is that there really is no place like home. Where people push and shove and swear and mutter under their breath on the Tube, people wait their turn; smile; talk about the weather on the Metro. Where rents are so astronomical, and the prospect of getting on the property ladder is pretty much zero in London; you can live a stone's throw away from the sea up North. I know, because I do.
I was recently asked why I decided to come back to the North East and, at the time, I found it hard to put into words. So, here goes. In Tyne and Wear where I grew up, and where I now live, I am where I belong. Where I belong is by the water, with its crashing waves; the comforting lull of the tide; the icy whip of the wind against my cheeks.
London, I loved you once; I do still have fond memories of our time together. But, Tyne and Wear, I will always love you. Fiercely.
* No Londoners were harmed (I hope?!) in the writing of this blog post *
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