For the first time in my adult life I’m not living in a major city and I’ve completely surprised myself by embracing the less frenetic lifestyle it brings.
(God I hope I’m not jinxing myself by saying this just a few weeks in.)
Just over a week ago Justin and I signed a lease on a little terraced house in Berkshire, the county I lived in from when I was wee to when I turned 18. At 18 I bolted as fast as I could to London and for the last 15 years (in between various stints of globetrotting) I’ve always lived in cities – Sydney and Melbourne being home after London.
Moving to a town, therefore, that has neither tubes nor trams is a pretty big deal, especially as this city girl can’t drive a motorised vehicle.
(It’s on the list – along with furnishing the new house and growing a baby.)
But so far, it’s been so good.
In fact, I have never uttered so many priddle-aged* phrases in my life as I have this week.
(*We’re pre middle-aged apparently.)
I’ve praised the lack of queues and personal service in the post office and marvelled at the sound of silence when I’ve got up to pee in the early hours. I’ve listened to bird song in the morning and can’t believe what a different soundtrack it is to Brunswick where trucks, trains, trams, traffic and drunken revellers were a regular thing.
I’ve got excited about walking into town to grab a few essentials as opposed to tackling Oxford Street/Pitt Street/Bourke Street because I want one thing from H&M.
I’ve swapped hipster cafes for a muffin from Café Nero or a baked potato from a greasy spoon and I haven’t even whinged about it.
(Give me time – I was a dedicated bruncher/hotcake-lover for many years!)
But if my status as a non-city dweller wasn’t already evident enough, last week I joined my mum, sisters and nephews for lunch in a garden centre (yes, that’s a thing we do around here) and I bloody loved it – the setting, the sandwich/chips/coleslaw, the farm shop, everything.
It’s funny because when you’re younger you think you’re going to be different. I saw friends settling down in the towns they grew up in and thought they were crazy; moving back to the boring town I grew up in was never going to happen to me. And yet…
Luckily Wokingham is not exactly the place I grew up in. My parents moved here when I was at uni so while I know the county (having grown up just down the road) I don’t walk the streets and suddenly feel like a 16-year-old geek. Neither do I regularly bump into old faces from the past that would make me hide in the aisles of supermarkets. (It’s an awkward British thing we do when we see someone we know unexpectedly.)
What I do have is both my mum and sister 5 minutes down the road and friends in the local area that I look forward to reconnecting with. For the first time ever my family are able to pop in for visits – no international flights or weeks of pre-planning necessary!
There are also more pubs in this historic market town than you could visit in a year and many cute Tudor buildings to admire as I do my errands. It has just the right amount of English charm for an ex-expat who has missed these twee things and, wait for it, there’s a Waitrose within walking distance. (Someone tear me away from the baked goods. Please.)
We’re 30 mins from Heathrow and an hour (ish) from central London, depending on whether you take a fast train from Reading or get a direct one that stops at every town between here and Waterloo. So, it’s not quite in the sticks, even if seeing fields behind our house is still very novel to me.
I hope I’m not growing boring with old age but the reality is I’m finding life in my 30s getting a little smaller. Aside from when we’re travelling, which will always be a major priority, I find I spend a lot of my time at home in the same postcode, hanging out with the same, smaller circle of people. I’m less concerned about the number of events and facilities on my doorstep and more interested in what’s on special at the local pub and whether a new show has dropped on Netflix.
Of course, financially it’s a bit cheaper to live here than in the city. Our current rent for 3 beds (well 2 and a box room) in the Home Counties is a couple of hundred pounds less per month than our previous properties in Oz – the rooms are a fraction of a size, mind you. (I’m not sure where we’re going to put all the Aussie sized furniture we shipped when it eventually arrives here in October.) We do have a garden for the first time though. Granted, it’s small and weedy and I don’t know what any of the plants are, but it’s bigger than a balcony and gets a good amount of sunlight so should be good enough for a barbie when next summer rolls in.
I honestly can’t tell if time will erode all the novelty of not being in a city or if this is me now – just another suburban mum (to be) who concerns herself with catchment areas and free parking. Watch this space if the above hasn’t already made your eyes bleed hehe.