Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Gimme some space


I have a dirty little secret. You might not find out when you first meet me, but eventually you will, and then you will see me differently. I’ll be lessened in your eyes somehow and I’ll see it written all over your face on the occasions you decide I’m still worth speaking to.

So what is this shocking undisclosed fact? Well, I’m comfortably under 30 and even though I tell people I live in London I actually reside in the suburbs. That’s right, you heard me, I live out in a place with no tubes, no Starbucks and a greater London dialling code. And it’s not even the trendy part with any possible chance of being up-and-coming. In fact, it’s widely accepted as being pretty naff.

I’ll understand if you stop reading now. It’s not uncommon when socialising to find people make a certain sort of face and then politely make their excuses as soon as I drop this bombshell.

Kinder folk have been known to throw a rope down into the social well I’ve just landed myself in. “Are you still living with your parents?” they’ll ask, sympathetically, ready to hear how expensive it is to buy or even rent anywhere central. But my leper status has made me defiant. “No,” I tell them, “it’s my house. I chose to live there.”

By then there’s no hope for me. I extinguished the last glimpse of that. It’s not so bad at standing up cocktail-and-canapé events where the newly disgusted can seamlessly glide away. Sit-down dinners are far more painful. The person next to me will have to execute a nifty subject change or, failing that, fake choking on the pudding to cover how truly awkward it makes them feel.

“No, there is not an über fashionable coffee shop at the end of my road, instead just a dilapidated dry cleaners. This doesn’t bother me as I waste enough money during the week on overpriced beverages.”

In truth I haven’t always been the confrontational conversationalist I am now. Not so long ago, I did the decent thing and lied. I pretended that I’d ended up there by an unfortunate succession of coincidences engineered by Fate herself to teach me the value of my zone 1 flat, when I finally got it.

However as time wore on I started to question my own propaganda. If I could actually afford to move, and god knows I’d heard myself extolling the advantages of it often enough, then why didn’t I? I could cast off the endless conversational dread and in one fell swoop become socially accepted at the same time.

The truth was, and is, that I like where I live. I’m 27, with an active social life but I don’t see the attraction of living smack bang in the centre of town. Overground trains are an amazing thing. They are faster and cleaner than tubes, and are even known to operate late into the night. No, there is not an über fashionable coffee shop at the end of my road, instead just a dilapidated dry cleaners. This doesn’t bother me as I waste enough money during the week on overpriced beverages. On the weekends I can make myself a decent cuppa and drink it in my pyjamas. I’ve yet to see a coffee shop offering that.

When it came to housing I picked space over location and I stand by it. I could move and live in a bona fide urban apartment 10 minutes from absolutely everything. For the same amount of money I’d rather have a garden to sunbathe in, a downstairs loo for visitors and a utility room to hide drying knickers.

God, I’m bored with justifying this decision in order for supposedly cool friends to keep speaking to me. I’d rather eat my own eye than move to Clapham and become part of the Clapham cliché of new grads wandering up and down the Northcote Road on a Saturday still in their hoodies, flip flops and trodden down jeans running into people they know and gossiping about their new alter ego as a banker Monday to Friday. Or worse, still getting drunk in infamous Inferno’s, which might as well be a student union if you disregard the inflated prices.

If I want the heady delights of a metropolis then they’re right there: one short, sanitary train journey away. Armed with an A-Z, I can experience just as much of the big smoke as my friends living the central London dream. And at the weekends I get the benefits of privacy, peace and quiet and lots of lovely space. So grumble about needing to bring your passport when you come to dinner at mine but take note that I can make everything from scratch because I’ve got the room to cook properly. And speaking of rooms, there’s always a spare one here if the idea of the return journey is too much travelling for one day. Read more by Rosie.