I grew up in one of the most affluent London boroughs. My mum and dad were not super rich but back in the early 70s it was still possible to plough a moderate amount of savings into a house purchase and get a mortgage on a three storey Edwardian property based on two average salaries. I have it on good authority that many of the two bedroom semi-detached properties in the street I first lived on now sell for up to £900,000 (although popular names in the area range from Jonty to Vera – draw your own conclusions 😉 ).
My husband also grew up in an affluent Surrey town and both sets of parents still live in the places where we grew up. We, on the other hand, made the decision to move to a less affluent area rather than hang on the rough and battered edges of a prime postcode.
We both work in the public sector (in Surrey) so we don’t have the luxury of cherry picking our dream location, and we were aware that our future children would benefit from things such as a large(ish) garden, nearby parks and child-friendly facilities that don’t cost the earth (as well as a 99p shop for those all important party supplies).
But there is some snobbery with regards our town and I suspect that it may be listed in that famous publication ‘Crap Towns’ which has a great laugh featuring such places as the urban roundabouts of Slough, the depressing grey architecture of Luton, etc.
Once, when I went to join our local library, I was astounded as I attempted to hand over a bundle of ID only to be told it wasn’t necessary because, as ‘an area of deprivation’, the council were keen to encourage library membership and had happily removed any potential barriers (like the security of stock or the ability to trace deviant internet surfers – go figure!).
We have easily accessible NHS doctors and dentists, schools which Ofsted have slated in the past leading to massive funding with generous grants and the facitlities, staffing and materials to show for it, and areas of regeneration like our very local playground which was given an expensive facelift in 2010.
It’s true, the town centre is the kind of place where shops like Peacocks and Wilkos thrive whilst a, possibly ill-judged, glass and chrome mall stands empty like a hastily abandoned sinking ship leading critics to label the place a ‘ghost town’.
On the other hand, we have seen major improvements and developments in the six years that we have lived here, including a huge new complex with a choice of popular restaurants from Pizza Express to Prezzo, and a multiplex cinema (which I’m particularly thrilled about as, before children, I was a massive film buff and I’m itching to make the most of this lovely local facility!). We also have a brilliant arts centre for comedy, theatre, workshops and classes (which I’m ashamed to say I have never visited but this is something that I very much have on my post-pre-school bucket list!).
Things tend to be cheaper and – dare I say it – less pretentious. Since having children I have met friends in and around this area who don’t judge us for what we do or don’t have, and who I hope will be friends for life.
So judge and criticise all you like if you live out in the glorious Surrey Hills or Hampshire’s Fleet (according to a survey, one of the happiest places in the UK). Maybe I’d join you if I won the lottery or suddenly became a hugely successful freelance IT consultant overnight (get me the Tena ladies now before I wet myself laughing!) but for the time being, with the resources available I’ll take my three bed red brick Victorian semi, family friendly resources and community and embrace it for all it’s worth. Just don’t ask me to tell you where I live 🙂