Friday, 14 September 2012

Summer is so over. Roll on a Brighton autumn

Brighton, beach, paddle, autumn, summer, kids, sea,
One last paddle...
It's about this time of year that I contemplate moving to Australia. I've loved the summer, hanging out on the beach (okay, okay, hanging out at the Fortune of War) spending an inordinate amount of time in shorty shorts and feeding the kids chips and Magnums every day. But now it's time to put my vest back on and embrace the shorter days. We might not spend every weekend on the beach, but I have been assured that we won't get bored during the colder months at the seaside.

Firstly, this weekend, we have the uber-awesome Brighton British Beards and Moustache Championships coming to town. As a renowned moustache fan, this is without a doubt the most important date in my diary. We're off to watch the Beard Parade through town tomorrow lunchtime plus more hirsute fun and frolicks throughout the afternoon. Although, I will draw the line at moustache rides. Ahem.

We also have the awesome Biba exhibition at the Brighton Museum & Art Gallery to look forward to. It opens next week and runs 'til April, which means I will be able to drag the kids around it more than once.

Sadly, the infamous White Night, Brighton's annual all-night arts festival, has been cancelled this year due to lack of funding. So unfortunately I won't get to hang out after hours with a sherry in hand at the city's museums, which is a shame as it sounds like my sort of culture.

We've also got the Brighton Comedy Festival in October. Yes, three whole weeks of pant-wetting belly laughs. This year has tonnes of good acts coming to the seaside including my favourite rude girl, Jenny Eclair (I'll be there heckling in the front row!).

And if that's not enough excitement, Peter Andre is only coming to the Brighton Centre on the 11th of December. Phew! Not sure I can cope with all the excitement

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

Our first summer

Oh we do like to be beside the seaside...
It's been a long, hot (well, ish) summer in the Davies' new city. Six glorious weeks to explore and discover our new home and I have to say, it's been totally brilliant. We've found new beaches, swam in the gloriously temperate English Channel (who knew?) and gone crabbing for hours. We've spent days on the pier shoving tuppences into machines, eating hot, sugary doughnuts and scaring ourselves silly on the rides. We've lived the Brighton dream with a sunset barbie on the beach, been bodyboarding the waves, hung out at a friends beach hut and enjoyed many a cold pint in a beachside bar cranking out great music and cool vibes, in short we've  had an awesome summer. The kids go back to school next week and life will get back to normal. The days will soon get shorter and the sea won't be so welcoming, so bring on a Brighton autumn. We're looking forward to it!
Living the Brighton dream

Monday, 30 July 2012

Beach Bar Babylon

Beers on the beach
Brighton is without a doubt at its best during the summer months. As our first season here I feel duty bound to spend every sunny moment on the beach (which explains my great tan and distinct lack of posts). With last week's temperatures hitting a rare 28 degrees, we've been swimming in the sea, lounging on the beach and more often than not indulging in a little beach-side beer, so I thought I'd share some of my favourite beach hangouts with you.
My number one favourite is the Fortune of War, along Kings Road Arches at the bottom of West Street. The oldest beach bar in Brighton, it opened in 1882 and has been sating thirsty Brightonians ever since. The decor's all a bit Captain Birdseye with rope-railed stairwells, an arched bar and two wooden hulls which overlook the sea, but it's as friendly and cosy as you can get. During the summer everyone spills out from the terrace onto the beach. It's open until midnight during the week (kids can stay until 8pm) and 2/3am on Friday's and Saturdays so don't be surprised to see folk partying til the early hours in little more than a bikini.
Just along from the Fortune, heading towards Brighton Pier, the Ohso Social is another must-visit. A family-friendly cafe-bar with a large terrace stretching out onto the beach. Feed the kids their (very good) fish and chips and then let them loose on the beach while you kick back with a well-earned glass of rose.
Heading east past the pier you'll come to a little stretch of Bondi (well, ish) where the city's hipsters play beach volleyball on the all-sand courts at the Yellowave Beach Club. Attached is the Barefoot cafe with its front row seats, a climbing wall and large sandpit for the kids. This has become a regular hangout for us as it guarantees me and Mr Dolly a quiet glass of vino while the beasts scale the climbing wall (see below).

If you want a decent cocktail with awesome views head even further east and the Seattle Hotel in the Marina which boasts the best ocean views in Brighton. Surrounded by gleaming white yachts you could almost be in St Tropez. As one of the city's most romantic spots, it might be worth leaving the kids at home for this one...

Friday, 20 July 2012 Boden mums in their natural habitat

Lewes is famous for bonfire night where effigies of politicians and celebrities are paraded through the streets before being burnt on the pyre.
I went to Lewes yesterday, the county town of East Sussex which lies about 6 miles north of Brighton. More Boden than boho, this pretty market town attracts a certain type of DFL (generally those from zone 1 who have gardeners and Carluccio's loyalty cards) and it reminded me of an article I read a while back written by a bitter Brighton-phobe. 
*anti-Brighton warning klaxon*
Despite being published 14 years ago it still attracts comments by loyal Brightonions. He famously states that Brighton is where those who can't handle London live and then right at the end of the piece bungs in "...and Lewes is where the people who can't handle Brighton live". What's the betting he now lives in Kemp Town and is writing his first Brightoncentric novel, eh? What a wally.

However, despite his nonsense I must admit, it does seem that when the London lot get tired of Brighton they move to Lewes. It's full with chichi shops, organic delis and expensive designer boutiques no doubt opened by smug ex-London fashion stylists.
Centuries ago I went to Lewes Tech and this was the first time I've been back and I was amazed at how different it is. It has a castle (who knew?) and a cattle market, which I do remember if only for the pungent scent on market day.  It's also still home to Harvey's Brewery, where on brew day the whole town would be engulfed by the smell of boozy Weetabix.

Anyway, while I wouldn't necessarily move there I can certainly see its attraction. But don't listen to me, listen to someone who's done it

Friday, 13 July 2012

Brighton, I want my money back.


I'm furious. Forty days and forty nights of soul-destroying rain does not make Dolly a happy girl.
In fact, I would even go as far and say that I feel cheated. I expected more of you, Brighton. You've broken your promise of a golden summer and in turn shattered my seaside dreams. Okay, so a bit dramatic, but still, lay off the rain for a moment will you? It's my first summer as a Brighton resident and I'm rapidly losing my sense of humour.
Last year, on my weekly pilgrimage to the estate agents of this town, the sun shined like a beacon enticing me in with its embracing heat and sunniness. The streets were bathed in a golden glow and happy folk in flip-flops and maxi dresses swanned their way to the beach without a care in the world.
With this picture in mind, I informed Mr Dolly that we're not going on holiday this year and instead we shall stay and enjoy the fruits of our new home. I carried on my staycation charade with my London pals, 'go away?' I sniffily retorted. 'I LIVE on holiday. I'm spending the summer on Brighton beach, my friend.' in a revoltingly smug fashion. Oh how I laughed when I read their status updates from Thailand whilst nursing my trenchfoot. 
Despite my love for Brighton, I have to admit there are few places that look more dismal in the rain than a seaside resort. All I can say is thank goodness for Lucky Voice on Black Lion Street, a padded haven of karaokeness where even the vilest of weather can't penetrate. Add nine pina coladas and Scouser named Dave and it could almost be Magaluf '94.

Monday, 9 July 2012

Bring out your bunting! Brighton street parties

If there was a street party capital of Europe, Brighton, with its quirky streets and passionately friendly residents, would totally be it. I've never known a place to hold so many. Over the past few weeks there's been dozens held each weekend, although this year it has been partly encouraged by the Jubilee, it's actually a Brighton tradition and each summer numerous residential roads close to traffic in order for the local folk to have a party. As June hits bunting is flung with gay abandon across the city's streets, pasting tables are dragged out of sheds and filled with homemade marrow wine and pints of warm cider and anyone and everyone who's ever held a tune pulls out a kazoo to honk out a jaunty tune. Yes, it might just be an excuse to drink within staggering distance of your own front door but it's also a lovely way to kick back, let the kids run free and most importantly, get to know your neighbours. Which is how we found ourselves drinking Red Stripe in the rain in Seven Dials on Saturday afternoon. Annually organised by the street's residents, some of whom were friends of ours, everyone pulled together to bring out homemade cakes, cucumber sandwiches, they even had a pie contest which added a nice frission of competitiveness to the event. There was face-painting, a bouncy castle for the kids and street olympics (aka 'an opportunity for the men to show off'). And just when we were all tipsy enough to dance, a swing band rocked up, complete with tuba, in the form of the adorable Swing Ninjas. Despite the dreadful weather, it was actually the perfect way to spend a Saturday afternoon and reason #1254 why I love this seaside city.

Monday, 2 July 2012

Eating's not all about candyfloss at the seaside you know (sadly)

As an ex-restaurant reviewer I used to eat out in London A LOT, so one of my concerns (#423 actually) about leaving the smoke was that I was moving to a culinary desert, where the Aberdeen Angus Steakhouse was the height of sophistication. But of course that's nonsense, Brighton is positively booming with fancy pants restaurants and super-hip places to eat, drink and be Mary. So here is the low-down on my current favourites...

The Chilli Pickle, next to MyHotel in the North Laines, is a cracking place for lunch. This light and airy Indian street food restaurant has certainly made its mark on the culinary map of Brighton. Great curries, dosas and awesome thalis, they even have a nice kids menu.

I really like the Coal Shed in the other (posh) Lanes, which does cracking steaks and a ridiculously good pecan and salt caramel cheesecake. It's friendly and laid back but smart enough to impress.
If I'm out whizzing about on my bike (I know, get me) a bit closer to home is Mason's Deli on Elm Grove, which does HUGE sandwiches for not very much money. Don't go for the coronation chicken please, it's my favourite and always runs out because it's so good, dammit.
And I can't forget the lovely Fanny's of Hanover, just off Elm Grove on Islingwood Road, is a favourite place for me and my boy to hang out (see pic). Good bagels, sandwiches and even the odd Scotch egg, plus excellent coffee served in cheeky mugs, you've gotta love Fanny's.

Now if it's a Sunday roast you're after, get down to my local, The Hartington onWhippingham Road, again off Elm Grove. The roasts here are legendary, with pork crackling so big you can wear it as a cape. It's probably best to rock up early or at least book as I've seen too many heartbroken folk miss out on a roast spud as early as 3pm. Plus they have San Miguel on tap, and for that I am always thankful.

For really good ice cream it's got to be Marrocco's along the seafront in Hove. Sometimes when me and the kids are really living the dream, we'll head down after tea and buy the BIGGEST ice cream (although not bubblegum flavour - huey) and sit on the beach to watch the sunset. According to the locals, Marrocco's is a seaside institution which must be adhered too over the summer months. They also sell cold beer and pizzas and (apparently) a good line in fresh fish, but it's the 24 flavours of ice cream that reels us in weekly.

For raw fish and the like the Japanese chain, Moshi Moshi has a branch in the Lanes, opposite the town hall, which does good sushi. It's got the old conveyor belt action going on, plus if you ask really nicely the lovely staff will bring you soft shell crab that will make you weep with joy.

I can't write a food post and not mention Donatello. The Donatello group of pizza and pasta restaurants have dominated the Italian scene in Brighton for near on a-gazillion years (as seen by the decades of celebrity photos they have decorating the walls). While it might not be super-trendy or serve fancy pants food,  it does do good pizzas and pasta at ridiculously cheap prices, and they love the kids. My lot are huge fans (as is my purse).

Of course, there's tonnes and tonnes of places to eat in Brighton and I will do my utmost to try many  more over the coming months (in the name of journalistic research, of course) and when I remember I'll pop some more up.

But in the meantime, if you can recommend decent kebab shop I'll be forever grateful...

Friday, 29 June 2012

Dolly no mates - making friends in a new city

One of the things that worried me about leaving London was that I'd have to start being nice, friendly and approachable to strangers. Nobody wants to make new friends at forty. All that effort! I'd rather go back to school. Luckily for me I had the advantage of a ready-made network of pals in Brighton, including my best friend of 20 years, so I didn't come across as too desperate to join the in-crowd, however, saying that I did want to make new friends, if only to exert my new Brighton smugness with people who understood.

While there are plenty of places to meet people in Brighton (the Waltzer being a favourite hangout of mine), the benefit of having primary school-aged kids is that you are forced into a social scene every day and there's no room for grumpy new mums in our school playground.
Thankfully, in the twins class (year 1) all the parents were immediately lovely, despite yet another DFL coming to town. Perhaps it was the novelty of having rowdy twins come into the class, but they made friends quickly, which meant I did too. It took less than a week to be invited on our first playdate and little more than two to be invited on the first mums pub crawl. All in all a good start.

The thing is with Brighton *smug klaxon* is that everyone is friendly. People feel very lucky to live in such as special place (sorry, I know how pukey that sounds) and that rubs off on everyone. There are fewer reasons to be miserable here and that makes the world of difference to a town's residents. Brighton is a really friendly place and I promise you, you will have no problem in finding like-minded folk to take to the pub. Me for instance, see you on the pier! 

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Where to live in Brighton...

When we first decided to move to Brighton I thought we'd pretty much be able to buy the Royal Pavillion for the price of a two bed flat in East Dulwich. I had big plans to sell our little two-up two-down terrace in a ropey part of south London and buy a gorgeous four bed Victorian villa overlooking Queens Park. Sadly, that was not quite the case. Not unless I sold a kidney. And a child. However, there are still bargains to buy in good areas. You just have to be patient and more importantly, open-minded.

So here's my take on some of the good areas to live in Brighton...

Hanover: 10-15 minute walk to the station. A cluster of roads bursting with cool, affordable but quite small houses with virtually no gardens. This is generally the next step up the ladder from a flat in Kemp Town. Lots of young families and arty types live around here which means it has a great community spirit. Plus it has loads (and I mean literally one on every corner) of good, family-friendly pubs.

Just back from Hanover is the Elm Grove area (where I live). There's a bloody great big hill leading up to the race course and off it is a series of nice roads including Brading, Bernard and Bonchurch filled with 3-4 bed houses and a smattering of flats. The gardens are still small, but The Patch, a small park nestled behind these roads is a handy addition to the area.  Elm Grove primary school is pretty good and there are a couple of decent pubs, namely my local, The Hartington (which has San Miguel on draft and a does a cracking Sunday roast).
The town and seafront are easily walkable in about 15-20mins, which with Brighton parking is a definite plus to this area. 

Beyond Elm Grove is the Hartington Road area. A great road which stretches from the Lewes Road up to the top of Elm Grove. This road is blessed with even bigger houses than Elm Grove with the gorgeous cream & red brick Victorian ones being the most desirable. The gardens are a decent size and back on to the cemetery.

Head the other side of Hartington and you're moving into studentsville. Bear Road and Coombe Road are the big boys here and the prices and facilities certainly reflect that. Also, the catchment area for Dorothy Stringer and Varndean gets a little hazy.

The other side of the Lewes Road is Hollingdean, which is cheaper and you get more for your money plus it's close to the des res area of Fiveways. If you're looking for secondary schools you need to check out the catchment area as it starts to waiver around this postcode. Hollingdean has some nice streets, Hollingbury Park and Hollingbury Road are probably the nicest, but Stanmer Park Road and Stanmer Villas have some reasonably priced 3/4 bed houses with a half decent garden. This area is certainly improving as it neighbours Fiveways, which has always been very desirable (and incidently quite pricey).

Queens Park is a lovely area. Good schools, great views down to the sea and a rash of fancy pants houses (check out the West Drive piles). The park itself is great and very popular with families. It's also a swift 10 minute walk to the beach from here, although it is a little further to the station. Still there are some great properties to be had if you made the bucks in London. The schools are good. I can vouch for St Luke's Primary, it has an outstanding OFSTED report and a no-school uniform policy (which is very popular in my house). Further down the hill is Queens Park school, which is also very good.

From here we're heading into Kemp Town territory. Great facilities, nice little flats and the odd decent sized house. A hop and a skip from the seafront, it has tonnes of good pubs, restaurants and some lovely little independent shops. To the left (away from town) is Kemp Town village, with quirky antique shops and delis not to mention the fabulous Ginger Dog pub. To the right is the busier hub of KT. From here you are moments from the centre of town  and a swift 10-15 minute march to the station. And you can be on the pier eating candy floss before you can say 'race you to the dodgems'.

Other property hot spots are Seven Dials with gorgeous properties, lots of regency and Georgian flats and is very close to both the station and the centre of town. Preston Park is another popular hotspot for DFLs and has bigger houses, gardens and of course, the gorgeous park. However, it's not as walkable to the centre (in my lazy ass opinion) Withdean and Westdene are well thought of, with a good spread of reasonably priced houses and decent primary schools.

If you want more bricks for your bucks you need to head out to Patcham, Portslade or Hollingbury. However, if funds are really strapped and you're happy with an ex-local authority pad, try the areas of Moulsecoomb, Bevendean and Whitehawk for a real bargain.
To be honest, I don't know a great deal about the Hove areas but I will check them out and report back.

Thursday, 31 May 2012

Our half-year Brighton anniversary - any regrets?

Six months? I can't believe we've been here six months already. On one hand, Brighton living is so comfortable it feels like we've lived here forever. Yet on the other, it feels like we only left our London lives last week. But six months living anywhere is a realistic time to decide whether you've made a mistake or not. I think the only mistake we've made is not doing it sooner. I love living by the sea it feels so much simpler than London. Less pressure. Less congestion (bar the weekend crowd) and the kids just love it. They've all settled in to school remarkably well and although they miss their London pals they too seem to have no regrets about moving to the seaside. Especially when I bribe them with fish and chips on the beach on a school day.
So actually, bar missing friends, there's been only minor pangs of regret about leaving the big smoke.

But in order to not be too smug, I've compiled a short list of things I do miss about London:

1) Saying I live in the capital. I was a very proud Londoner and seeing pictures and TV footage littered with red buses, black cabs and iconic London sights sends tiny pangs of regret that I'm not there in  Jubilee and Olympic year.
2) Shopping. I miss the markets, especially Borough (despite having to regularly remortgage to buy an organic artichoke) and of course, I really miss Selfridges and the House of Fraser. This is not to say that Brighton shopping is not wholly enjoyable, however I do miss a rummage around the big boys on payday.

3) The diversity. One of the absolute best things about London is that it really is a multicultural city. I used to love all the different areas from the very Jamaican Brixton to the Jewish quarters of Stamford Hill and Golders Green. I think kids learn such a lot about different cultures living in one city and really benefit from it. Unsurprisingly, there's not so much diversity in Brighton and after living in London for so long that does take a little getting used to.

4) The tube. I know it's a pain in the jacksy when you have to commute everyday, but as a leisurely freelancer I loved going on the tube in to town. You can get anywhere, it's brilliant. I'm hoping that Boris will eventually extend the Northern Line down to Brighton. You know it's only a matter of time!

5) Uniqlo. Okay, so this should come under shopping, but COME ON BRIGHTON, I need some new jeans!

But, all in all no, je ne regrette rien. (see how boho am I since I've moved? I'll be wearing a patchwork turban next!)

Tuesday, 29 May 2012

House-hunting seaside style

 Photo credit:

It's Tuesday and after a ridiculously glorious weekend Brighton is STILL as balmy and beautiful as ever. After what seemed like decades of murky weather, the sun has finally come out and along with it brought the daytripper-turned-househunting brigade. They are easily to recognise, all wistful looks and fat deposits, noses pressed against estate agent windows all with the hope of living the dream. And it's no wonder, who wouldn't want to move down here in the summer, streets crammed with stunning Georgian architecture, a cool and surprisingly clean ocean and everyone, literally everyone has a smile on their face. Okay, okay, I know I'm banging on again. I will stop soon, honest. After this last strawberry Mivvi...
While statistically the stretch between June and October is the prime time for making the big move to the coast, it's not always the right move. Prices often increase, they certainly hold their value and there is much more competition often resulting in bidding wars during the summer months. So the happiest people you'll see in Brighton on a sunny day are estate agents, rubbing their hands with glee at all that lovely London commission.

This recent report in the Independent showed that Brighton is the most expensive place to buy in Britain, followed by Oxford and then Guildford. But probably even more surprisingly, London came 7th after Chelmsford of all places. So there really is no accounting for taste (sorry Chelmsford).
My husband, a London estate agent, was insistent that we must not fall into the trap of buying a house in the summer when even the ropiest looking dog-pit looks attractive. So my advice is to buy in winter when the grey skies and cruel winds will put even the hardiest of buyers off.

If you're serious about moving down, meet and make friends with ALL the estate agents, call them every week without fail, read Latest Homes, the Brighton property pages religiously and remember that good properties do not hang around for long. Be prepared to view at the drop of a hat, I used to drop the kids off at school and bomb down the M23 to look at places within a couple of hours of being notified. Although not everyone has this privilege, it's often is a case of you snooze, you lose when it comes to good Brighton properties.
Anyway, the beach beckons so I'll put up a few good agents who specialise in the different areas of Brighton in my next post.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Where's Cliff? I'm on a perma-summer holiday

I've gotta say the absolute best thing about living in Brighton has to be the proximity to the beach. It's all I can do to not spend my days on the carousel, eating hot doughnuts and having 'Mam' tattooed on my bosom. Even though the weather has not been kind these past few weeks, a quick hour dahn the arcades and a stick of candy floss is never wasted, in my view.
When you move to the seaside, there's one thing you can expect and that's lots of visitors. If I'd known how popular it would make us I'd have moved years ago. At first leaving my beloved London felt like a massive wrench. For fifteen years it felt like the centre of the universe and I worried that if I stepped out of zone 4 I'd fall to my death into a big smoking crack in the earth. But apparently not. Brighton is the first stop on the seaside train and at the first sign of sun is heaving with be-Croc'd Londoners.
Within weeks of arriving we've already had a steady stream of visitors. Which is brilliant, however, come the summer months I worry that this could get out of hand, like when a cheeky weekend visit turns into two weeks full board in August. If this is the case, I shall be putting my best landlady grimace, hoiking up my formidible bust and insisting on a maximum two night rule.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Things to consider before moving to Brighton

Work – Are you commutable? Luckily, I work from home so my office can be (and often is) on the beach, in the park, in the pub (although granted, it's not the most productive environment - hic). But for those of you who have proper jobs, you might be surprised at the difference in salary if you want to fully relocate to the coast. One way to get over this is to do the daily commute into the big smoke. Thousands do it everyday and because of this the train services are getting better and better with many making the schlep in under an hour. Of course, you have to think of the added price of a season ticket too. But despite all this, coming home on a Friday evening knowing you can kick back on a sunny beach for two days is well worth the daily slog.
You might want to consider your proximity to Brighton station if you plan to do the daily commute, although unlike London, the majority of residential areas of Brighton & Hove proper (as in not your Patcham/Portslade/Hangleton etc. outskirts) are within a 20 minute walk. Either that or get a bike.

Primary schools
We have moved to the Elm Grove area. A brisk 20 minute walk into to town and to the beach. There's Queen's Park nearby and a whole host of good primary schools available.
St Luke's Primary School – With its no school uniform (unless you count Boden) policy and an outstanding OFSTED.
Elm Grove Primary School - equally good
Queen's Park School - again, very good
St Martin's C of E Primary School - above average

Secondary schools
One of the main reasons we moved to Brighton was because we have kids. While I love living in London, I wasn't quite so happy to have my ten year old son roaming the streets in search of entertainment. Luckily for us, I had a man on the ground (and an ex-school teacher at that) to check out the schools down here. With a strict catchment area in mind, we were able to narrow down the best roads to buy in. Brighton has a lottery system for secondary schools, however, this does still fall within the catchment areas. For instance: we live in the catchment for Dorothy Stringer and Varndean schools, both are very good and the lottery will mean we will 'probably' (I say that as I don't want to tempt fate) will get one of these. I'll touch on these again later as we go through the application process and eternal nail-biting that comes with the territory.

I have become a Brighton smugsy

Well, I've got to say, I'm not wholly surprised by this. I seem to have come down with the BSS, or as us DFLs (down from London) call it, Brighton Smug Syndrome. I must admit I should have seen the signs coming. Within a week of moving in, I seemed to have joined a little (actually, a bloody huge) gang. EVERYONE was from London. I met my old London neighbour in the playground at school "oh, you finally made it! Great, isn't it?" she said smugly. "Oh yes, Laura's Brixton, and Julia she's Crouch End." they say with a self-rightous smirk which screams 'look how great we are?' 'haven't we made the right move?'. And now I'm doing it. Well it's so beautiful and trendy and with loads of great shops, restaurants, cafes and when the sun shines it seems like everyone is on holiday. And we have the sea. The beautiful briny sea. And THIS is during winter, can you imagine how unbearable I'm going to be in the summer? Ghastly.
So as my beautiful blonde boy skateboards to school, the little ladies get a shiny glow as they run along the beach, I too have become smug Brightonian. Punch me now. 

Bye London, it's been fun

I've lived in London for the past fourteen years. Starting off in a ropey old flat in West Hampstead (okay, okay, Kilburn borders) above a pub on Tower Bridge approach, above another pub in Marble Arch. I sub-let a grubby flat from a drug-dealer in Shepherds Bush and then lived opposite a recording studio also in the Bush. Then when it came to buy my budget brought me to zone 3 and the lush delights of Gipsy Hill, Crystal Palace and finally, glamorous* West Norwood.
I loved living in London. Yes, it can be gritty, smelly and the chances of being verbally abused by drunk old ladies on the bus rate higher than say, Surrey. But I loved the fact I could hop on a train, bus or tube and be in the West End rummaging in golf sales within half an hour. But despite everything our glorious capital offers, I've always longed for the seaside. So after five long years of badgering Mr Dolly to make the move, last November we finally packed up three kids, grabbed our bucket and spades and sped down the M23 for the very last time. 

*said ironically, obviously.