According to the Office for National Statistics, more and more people are choosing to leave London for pastures new; tired of the hustle, bustle and jaw-dropping expenses. Between August 2013 and June 2014, 68,643 people decided to up sticks - over 10,000 more than the previous year.
We battle out the case for staying or getting the hell out of dodge.
Time spent in London: Entire life
London is unrelenting with a constant stream of new, wide-eyed youngsters moving in; it's up to you to stay relevant and up your game in the face of new competition to seemingly slow yourself from becoming dull and set in your ways. In many ways this isn’t always a bad thing: the access to cutting-edge culture and multiculturalism is also a brilliant character builder.
But god it's tiring. Commuting takes at least an hour to get anywhere. You constantly meet people who think they're more important than you (someone once described dating in London as just meeting people who think they can do better - and it's true). And it’s grey. Sure, there are places of undisputed beauty like Richmond Park but travel to the Lakes or the Highlands and you're reminded what the real beauty of unfettered British countryside looks like. Imagine living somewhere where you could have the bustle of a city and be half an hour away from one of the most beautiful expanses of land on earth? Impossible, surely? No, it's called Manchester. Or Sheffield. Or Leeds. Or Glasgow. And it's cheaper. So much cheaper.
It's a cliché, but people - in general of course - are friendlier outside of London. The shock of having someone (a stranger!) say "good morning" when I went on holiday outside of London for the first time has never left my memory.
Step outside the capital and you find more time, more space. Things run properly. You bathe in the warm knowledge that it’s actually nicer to be a big fish in a smaller pond instead of another average specimen swimming around in a pool of sharks. Instead of being on the bleeding edge of everything new, you discover the joys of being ever-so-slightly late to things, with the luxury of having the nonsense filtered out by the time it arrives.
Alas and alack, with friends, family and an abusive relationship with Leyton Orient Football Club, I am bound to the capital for now. But I fully understand those who are making the exit.
Time spent in London: 5+ years
When I moved to London I was a snarky Northerner that liked my beer cheap, my rain cold and constant and my food with gravy. I hopped into the capital as a cliché of a Yorkshireman missing only my whippet and a collection stories about the time I "worked down t’pit".
I was outraged and terrified by what I perceived to be an overpriced and overrated city. I remember buying that first round of London drinks and being punched in the face with a price tag more commonly associated with petrol. The realisation that for the foreseeable future I’d be eating a mixture of chickpeas and gravel. My socialising days over, not due to abject loneliness but crippling finances.
Then there was the pace – people in London run like they’re hiding something. With my new found diet of dreadfulness, the daily commute became a ticking time bomb of cardiac failure. Despite my youthful face my hair started to grey, like an inverted Benjamin Button clad in Northern fear.
Around 10-months in, things began to change. I made friends, learnt to cook and discovered places to drink that didn’t leave me pawning my beard. I opened my eyes to what London had to offer – the abundance of culture and experiences. With time you learn that London-living isn’t actually that bad, that it doesn’t have to be expensive and that you can coexist with psychopathic rush-hour commuters at your own pace.
I’ve lost track of the incredible weekends I’ve had exploring and socialising with fellow Londoners (I can categorically say that the ‘Southerners are rude’ cliché is 75 percent bullshit), eating food I can’t pronounce and seeing things with my own eyeballs that I’d never get anywhere else.
Yes, there are moments I dream of leaving for a land of green, where people don’t use enough syllables when they speak. But every single time I look into it, or visit the north, I’m itching to return within days.
London is like a good relationship. There are always times where you disagree, hate each and forget why you fell in love in the first place. But for the better part it brings you a hell of a lot of joy.
Although it wouldn’t hurt if the chip shops down here could understand that gravy is a necessity.