I've been thinking a lot about London, recently. Being from the Home Counties, London has this over-powering draw - it feels like an inevitability. Like, I'll only have 'made it' when I move to London. That to progress in life, I have to get to London. Even though I have to come to love Leeds, I still sometimes wonder how many years it will be until I move to London. Because you have to move to London, right? If life is a journey, then London is the destination. Throughout school and Uni, London was the goal and the dream for almost everyone I knew. Other than the occasional invocation of New York, Paris, LA or Sydney, London was 'The One'. We were all going to move there when we were done with education, and we would all live that elusive London life.
Paul informs me that this isn't the case if you come from the North; apparently, as a Northerner, you feel sorry for poor London-dwellers, cramped into over-priced apartments, so far away from the achingly beautiful landscapes of the Pennines and the Yorkshire Moors. If friends move to London for work, it's seen as a temporary move, before they eventually return home to the North where they should be. London is a diversion, not the final destination.
Even though I adore Leeds, London still has this draw for me. I imagine myself brunching in Notting Hill, attending theatre shows and generally sampling the smorgasbord of delights that the city has to offer. Only, if I did actually move to London, I couldn't afford to do any of those things. In Leeds, I can live in the coolest neighbourhood (don't argue with me, Chapel Allerton is the coolest!), minutes from the city centre, in a spacious two-bedroom flat (with a separate kitchen!) and I eat out numerous times a month. In fact, I went out last night. And I'm going out tomorrow night. I say this not to boast, I know that a lot of this comes from luck and from being in a relationship with someone who earns double what I do! But to move to London, and live like this? We would have to both double our salary. Maybe triple it in my case. We'd also lose a lot of the other luxuries that come from living in a 'smaller' city. Being able to find a seat in our local bars and pubs - even the popular ones. Not having to queue for an hour for an exciting city-centre restaurant. Driving to our friend's houses in less than five minutes, with no traffic in the way. Being just minutes from beautiful countryside, an airport and not feeling constantly grimy (I can't be the only one whose hair gets super-greasy as soon as you step off the train and into the London metropolis? Ugh, I hate it).
I don't mean for this to turn into a diatribe against London. I love London. There's so much happening, and so many opportunities. Many people I know are 'making it' in the big city. They all seem pretty happy with it. But, I want to challenge the pre-eminence of London in my mind. Leeds isn't some second-choice option, a bypass on the way. It's an incredible city to live in, with a vibrant community, thriving arts scene, plenty of restaurants and all the benefits I listed above. 'Making it' here, isn't less than 'making it' in London. Whilst I might not want to live in Leeds forever, and if the opportunity to move to San Francisco or New York came up, I would take it in a second, I am happy here. It is enough.