I had a conversation with someone yesterday and it’s still ringing in my ears. We shared that we both, over time, had fallen a little out of love with London.
I’ve lived here for over 23 years now - and bear in mind the plan was to come here for a single year, to complete my MSc in psychology. Then straight back to Dublin to start my career. Decades later, I’m still here, running a business, owning an apartment and married to my best friend.
If we’re talking putting roots down, that’s a lot, right?
But this place has changed tremendously since I arrived here. From an outward looking, internationally-respected UK, to a Brexit-bashed, inward-facing island nation. Inflation, strikes, inept government and no end in sight to enduring social problems.
London is still a fantastic city, with so much going for it. It’s a world capital and if there’s anything going on, it’s going to come here at some point. Arts, business, services, innovations - they’re all available here.
At the same time, the pace is just exhausting. Crime is truly frightening. Services - education, transport, healthcare - are on the very precipice of collapse. And when they do, it won’t be pretty. Privatisation of water, electricity, gas…has left these industries in tatters. Our conversations continually turn to: why doesn’t anything work any more?
And so my plans for a lovely retirement in Europe are reforming in my mind. Why wait another twenty years to move to the sun? The more time I spend outside of the UK, the more I realise how my quality of life could be much better when it comes to what really matters.
Every trip to Spain, no matter where I am, reminds me of the boost I get from sunshine and blue skies. The palpable friendliness that’s basically absent from London. The opportunity to stop bracing myself for disaster.
I’m not about to close up shop and fly away to Sitges tomorrow. But I am determined to more research and do it far sooner. Maybe I’m being very pessimistic, but I’d rather be pleasantly surprised at a UK recovery than shattered by misplaced optimism that it’ll all turn out okay.
Watch this space.