They say moving is one of the most stressful things you do in life. Not all moves are created equal, though. Some, like leaving your home and everything you know because it’s impossible for you to stay and live, is its own category. Next to that I feel like me moaning about getting to move to London, one of the most exciting and expensive cities in the world, is very much #firstworldproblems. And it is. It is also a completely ridiculous system that offers tenants no security whatsoever.
Until you’ve got a fully completed (signed by everyone) contract and a set of keys, you can’t put your full weight on the idea that you are going to be moving. It used to be that if you liked a flat, you gave the agent a holding deposit and unless they were real cowboys you could be fairly safe that it was yours. Now – that system is dead. You have to send in an offer, for all you know at the same time as six other people are doing the same thing, and then wait for the landlord to choose who they want based on your ‘profile’ and your offer (which generally is the amount they’re asking, because this is renting, I’m not buying the bloody place). But even once your offer has been ‘agreed’, there’s no relaxation. We had 48 hours to complete our references. We got the initial email from the referencing company at 6pm on a Wednesday night. At 6.50pm we got another email chasing us to fill in the form. At 10am the next morning the letting agent chased us to get our landlords and employers to finish the references. You may think, well relax, they wouldn’t actually take it off you, especially as by this time we’d sent them a significant chunk of money to pay for the referencing and for the agent to change the name and address on a contract boilerplate – but this very agent showed us a property which they said was under offer but the tenants were being a bit slow getting their references together, so the landlord had asked them to keep showing the flat to people. And if we went over the offer by as little as £5 we’d probably get the place. Wow. What a beautiful system.
Anyway. That bit is over. I was dreading flat hunting in London and it was every bit as vile and stress-inducing as I remembered. We have ended up paying more than £300 a month more than we originally intended. Our rent is almost double what we’re paying in Canterbury for a larger place. It is easy to focus on the negatives.
However! One of the main reasons for the move is for us to swap commutes, and we have managed to achieve that. I was fully expecting to still have an hour’s commute to work, because in London, unless you can walk, everything takes an hour. But we did find somewhere I can walk from, so my commute is now a 10-15 minute walk. I have no idea what I’m going to do with all the time I’ll have now that I won’t be out of the house from 7am to 7pm four or five days a week (I get a work from home day at the moment – and yes, I will be giving it up when we move!).
We will be a 15 minute walk from one of my dearest friends. I didn’t tell him where we were flat hunting, so I got to break the news to him in person last night – and it was delicious. We used to be flatmates and leaving him was one of the hardest things for me when I moved to Canterbury. We have many plans for brunches, walks in the park, and watching Queer Eye at each other’s houses.
Another of my best friends I haven’t seen so much lately since she had a baby, and has very few free evenings when she can leave the house. For me to go to hers I had to stay over because it was too far to get home. She’s just had twins and now I’ll be 30-45 minutes away, within easy reach for popping over for dinner/tea/to help out when needed.
Yet another of my best friends will be about half an hour away by tube – she is living in central London for the first time since we lived together in halls during our MA degrees, and her excitement at me being back in London is heartwarming and infectious. I can’t wait to experience London through her eyes, as she sees so much more of what there is on offer than I do.
Another friend who I speak to almost daily via text but who I see about once every six months will be so much closer – I’m hoping to invite myself over to see the house she’s bought with her husband, and see in the flesh the wallpaper I didn’t really help to choose (they ignored my suggestion) and generally hang out and drink beer as in the days of university.
For my partner this move is an opportunity to expand his work contacts, join a volleyball club, meet some people who are interested in playing board games (they bore me senseless) and generally spend some more time with people who are on his wavelength. I am really hopeful he will start to feel more settled and at home in England – when much of your interaction day-to-day with our country is through the news, even when you live here, it’s easy to feel unwanted and out of place if you weren’t born here (or sometimes even if you were). As London is one of the most cosmopolitan places in the world, with any luck he will find it easier to build a community.
I’ll be able to stay at work drinks without worrying about which train to catch! I can eat dinner somewhere other than King’s Cross! Every social interaction I have after work won’t have the inevitable, ‘Are you all right for time?’ ‘Well I can leave in the next ten minutes or I’ve got over an hour. Do you want to rush or do you want to get drunk?’ conversation! Going to the theatre with friends won’t mean getting home at midnight and looking dead-eyed at work the next day! I’ll be able to go out dancing again! I won’t be exhausted every evening because it’s taken me two hours to get home! I’ll be able to throw out the enormous, ugly backpack I carry all my stuff in, which I’ve finally admitted to myself in the last few days is MONSTROUS and I HATE IT.
London is busy, and stressful, and undeniably so expensive it makes you queasy. I will miss Canterbury enormously, and will definitely be down here fairly often (especially to see the one friend I’ve managed to make down here!). But I am trying to remember to count all the things money can’t buy me, too. It’s not easy: seeing the money you’ve saved over the last year vanish in the moving costs feels more tangible than the time I’ll have free and the different opportunities I’ll have on my doorstep. But the latter are equally real. And what do I have the money for if not to spend it? We are beyond lucky to be able to do this, to have the means (just) and the flexibility to do this. It may not be easy, but like all big changes, you have to hope that in the end it will be worth it.