As he leant across the French kitchen table he had shipped from the Dordogne and antiqued by a clever little man just off Upper Street, my friend Jonty recently asked me “What’s so great about moving to the bloody country then?”.
I paused, the imitation habitat cup held to my lips, filled with his unique Monmouth coffee house blend, before spluttering “house prices, obviously”.
Our laughter filled his Islington kitchen, bouncing off his distressed vinyl kitchenware, and echoing from the artfully mismatched Costacurta tiles.
Obviously, I’ve just made up that exchange. I barely even know anyone called Jonty, but I suspect that’s not far from a lot of people’s views of the Down From London (DFL) invasion.
I’d like to think my little family and I are very different to this. I’ve really enjoyed getting to know my new home, and maybe being an outsider allows me to see things a bit differently. That is at least until I become jaded and start complaining about bin collections on Facebook.
What have I enjoyed most in my first few months as a Canterbury resident, I hear literally nobody ask. Well, I’ll tell you anyway.
There’s the beautiful city centre, yes really. It’s wonderful to see the cathedral loom over the roof tops as you round certain corners, and to discover the mixture of historical buildings and interesting modern businesses.
There are some truly great pubs and restaurants, often staffed by people who seem not to detest the idea of working with the general public. Of course, all of this is set in some stunning countryside, and within easy reach of the seaside.
I could list more, and go into detail on each one, but I’m busy, and you’re probably bored. If I could pin it down to one thing it would be this: Canterbury just feels like a great place to be. It’s safer, cleaner and friendlier than where I used to live.
There’s a huge sense of history, which brings tourists of course, but combined with the seemingly endless number of learning institutions brings a real vibrancy to the city.
I’ve been to a lot of similarly sized cities and towns in the UK that completely lack either of these, and the result is fairly grim.
You know this of course – you’ve always known this – and perhaps this is at the heart of the antipathy towards people moving in from London, banging on about how great everything is.
I get it, we’re like an ex-smoker who complains in-between splutters: it may be true but there’s no need to be an utterly tedious turd-bucket about it. It’s why we rank somewhere between students and rats in the popularity stakes.
I’ll try to keep this in mind and, as much as I want to make my friends stranded in the pollution, commuting and council tax hell that is London feel jealous, I’ll tone down the joy.
The last thing I want is for them to move down here too. I wouldn’t want them to ruin it for the rest of us.
Alex Ricketts is a marketing professional working in London. He lives in Canterbury with his partner and his young daughter.