Back to my roots

Au revoir then, London. I’ve known you now for 17-and-a-half years, on and off. I love you, in many ways. But I can’t afford to stay with you.

In short, I’ve moved back to County Durham. I’ve bought a house, for cash, just around the corner from where I grew up; a first-time buyer at 47. When I tell Londoners what I paid for it, they gasp – literally – and say: “That’s a deposit in London.”

In Hartlepool, my hometown, house prices actually fell last year by 5%. Which is great, if you ask me. I’m from an area with some of the cheapest housing in Britain. How lucky is that?

I’m not sure I could have done it a year ago. My work on magazines, as a freelance subeditor, tied me to the capital, and to perpetual renting. I felt trapped.

Increasingly, I also felt scared.

Technology has been my saviour, thankfully. Remote working means that the expense of London, and the chore of commuting for two hours a day or more, is a fading memory.

These days I get up at a reasonable hour, step into my home office and look out at my rather large garden. I could go for a walk on the beach, if I felt like it. It’s a five-minute walk away.

Of course, I’ve had to make sacrifices. Instead of going to the theatre once or twice a week, I spend my evenings watching DVDs I’ve rented from LoveFilm.

But, you know what? London is a little over three hours away on the train, and fares are pretty cheap, if you book in advance.

That dreadful insecurity I had, of thinking I might be renting in my dotage, has vanished. I can’t believe how relieved I am. How happy.

And as the UK’s house price madness shows no sign of dying down, particularly in the south of England, I wonder if I might be a trendsetter.

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