In Defence Of Being A 20-Something In The Suburbs
The Debrief: It's not all perfect lawns and sexless marriages, you know. Well, not quite.
I’m Ellie and I’m a suburbanite.
This is a tough thing for any ex-Londoner to say. You can spot us a mile off - we're the ones who mention how close we are to London whenever someone asks where we live: ‘Oh me? Yeah, I live 20 minutes from London.’ Or another classic, ‘I used to live in London, but now I live in…. mumble bleurgh mumble.’ We cling to fact that we used to live in London for dear life. We’re raw from the fact that we couldn't hang in there; excusing ourselves as if London literally kicked us out, into the cold, fresh-er aired suburban wasteland of hydrangeas, dinkiness and push chairs. Which, I guess in a way, was partially true.
I was proud to call my little slice of Angel, Islington home for six years. Whilse I loved my costly miniscule idyll, amidst trendy streets of glorious eateries and vintage goodness, it was not the most practical place to live. The Housing Crisis was about to hit me square in the face - I'd decided to start my own business from home so needed more space - and I was left with only a handful of options:
1)Hit up that wealthy benefactor
2)Career change into crime
3)Move out of London
To even consider leaving London was sacrilege - worse than the previous two options put together. Plus, I grew up in the suburbs and there was no way I was going to move back after working so hard to escape. I was too young, surely? I’d die of boredom! What if I succumbed to it’s potent nesting toxins and started procreating wildly? What if I lost myself entirely? In short, I panicked.
However, ignorant petulance aside, faced with the reality of either having to live like a student forever and/or financially crippling myself to live in a teacup, the idea of moving to the suburbs was back on the table.
I now live in St Albans, Hertfordshire. I was voted one of the happiest places to live in the country. It's not wildly cheap, but it’s a nifty 20 mins to St Pancras and I often beat my London friends home after a night out in the Big City.
It’s also beautiful, with independent shops and foodie hot spots that would make any quirky corner of London nod its head in appreciation. It’s continually raising its game to appeal to the migrating city folk. To be fair, most places within the London commuter belt are of a similar ilk, offering an excellent quality of life coupled with a practical commute time to work. Maybe that should be it’s slogan. That, or, ‘We have great cheese.’ One such stylish migrant, and fellow St Albanite, is author and playwright Angela Clarke who has written that, ‘Far from being stuck in a hellish version of The Good Life, there's a thriving cultural scene all on my doorstep. I have room to think, create, and work- and a study to call my own. Luxury!’’
No one is saying that you have to have a lobotomy to live happily in the 'burbs. On the contrary. I’ve carved out amazing opportunities for myself. I’ve done things and met people in the suburbs that I never would have been able to living in the City. In 2013, I launched St Albans Fashion Week, which culminates in a catwalk show in St Albans Cathedral, for 1,000 guests.
Hertfordshire resident, celebrity fashion commentator and stylist, Grace Woodward will be showcasing a collection from her new high fashion boutique, Graceland, on our catwalk this year. Angela Clarke has a second book coming out and her debut play won 5 star reviews across the board: these women aren't only surviving in the suburbs - they're thriving out here.
According to The Greater London Authority, the average value of a one-bedroom property in London is a whopping £1,155 compared to the East of England, where the cost for an equivalent property is £625. Space is at an all time premium, so places are few and far between, rent is astronomical (because it can be) and there’s no need to ensure quality as people’s desperation will make do with anything. Why struggle when there are viable options elsewhere?
Suburbia, as we know it, is a state of mind. It’s what you make of it. So don't cling on to your city life at the risk of happiness. Come out here, where the air is clear. After all, you can always pop back for the night if you get bored.
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Follow Ellena Orphira: @StyleinmyCity
At work? With your gran?
You might want to think about the fact you're about to read something that wouldn't exactly get a PG rating