Down from London

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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.

8 COMMENTS

  1. 17 yrs ago,i arrived,i see a 5 bed thatched roof cottage up for sale £239.000, i couldn,t believe you could get that for so little. Then a mate said..If your on £6,ph here your doing well.WHAT!!!! Ileft London on £14ph. Minimum wage? Never heard of it. I came down for recovery,which i found, and there had a decent prescence in Canterbury. Landlords own and rent a very large part of the housing stock. I love Canterbury,it is safer, cleaner and a great place to live. As for wages,price of property,cost of living,we all know thats not what it could be. Hope i havn,t “Invited” too many more DFL,s in. Lol

  2. Hi Chris, crazy how much prices have increased over recent years. But as you say, it’s all about quality of life rather than financial reward. Hopefully that will keep the worst element out!

  3. Alex, as a Southgate man, we know the real reason for your moving is to be nearer the most iconic hockey player the nation ever produced. Do send our North London love to Sean and Paula when you see them out walking their dog on the sea front. Miss you. POD.

  4. I remember a similar feeling when we moved from to Harpenden over 20 years ago. A general feeling of well being reinforced by the awful memory of someone in our neighbourhood in Finchley Central who was nearly beaten to death with our For Sale sign! You won’t regret it for a minute.

  5. Hi POD, I’ve yet to pick up a stick since moving down, so the beach is the most likely place I’ll see them. Always welcome, if you fancy a break from the smog!

  6. Hi JohnM…that’s very reassuring! I lived not far from Finchley Central 20 year ago…Always thought it was a bit ore civilised than that. Definitely an omen though.

  7. The problems with dfls are that with their London salaries they drive the prices of houses up out of the reach of locals, just like the student rentiers do, otherwise no problem until the market starts to react to their presence and shops prices go up and the nature of goods for sale changes …… visit Whitstable!

    As to friendliness, we moved from Essex 30 years ago and were astounded as how slow things were, people talked to shop assistants, they had conversations with them …. unheard of! As a rule of thumb it seems to be that the further you get from a big city and the more rural it is, the friendlier people are so long as you fit in and don’t get all snobby.

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