Dear Virginia, I've worked in the same company for 16 years. My family are settled in London, my children love their school, and we have a community of very good friends. But now my business is being relocated to Coventry – a place that no doubt has its charms, but isn't for me. I either go or I take a pay-off, but it's not a very good one. What can I do? At 52, I'm unlikely to get another job. Yours sincerely, Ed

Ever since Dick Whittington set off with his cat, it is London that people have aspired to reach. Coventry to London – yes. London to Coventry – no.

I've had not one letter extolling the glories of Coventry. It's an industrial city devastated by air-raids during the Second World War, but, ever since Lady Godiva rode on a horse through the streets with nothing on, and Peeping Tom gave his name to voyeurs, very little has happened, except that now it's got an Ikea, a cathedral designed by Basil Spence not renowned for its beauty, and a museum which boasts, "the largest display of British road transport in the world".

Doubtless, the city is packed with interesting people and, if you were brought up there, it would feel like home. But Ed wasn't brought up there. Nor were his kids. And at the moment he is a Londoner, an inhabitant of a city that many argue is the most vibrant and interesting city in the world. And, more important, his children have, so far, been brought up in London. My experience of children who are moved out of London at a young age, is that they do nothing but pine for the golden city and, the moment they reach adulthood, move hell or high water to return.

And let's say Ed did move his family up there, what then? True, it is possible to make new friends at 52, but most of one's best friends are made in one's twenties and thirties – and Ed's friends are mostly based in London. It's hard to make new "old friends" and I think Ed and his wife would miss their community network in London as much as its members would miss him. Children can adapt, but there's a chance they'd be teased for their posh southern accents, and they'd have to push their way into societies made up of kids who'd already made good friends in their own strong communities up there.

Ed has either got to find another job – in London – or he'll have to commute until he retires. The city is only an hour away from London by train, after all. Or Ed could rent somewhere in Coventry and spend a few nights there, and perhaps ask his bosses if he could work a four-day week. Perhaps he could find out if he could give the job a year's trial away from home – and ask, if he didn't like it, whether he could still get the same redundancy deal.

Whatever, he should do his utmost to stay put, or at least get his family to stay put, and don't allow them to be sent to Coventry, a phrasethat means: "The state of being banished or ostracised, excluded from society by general consent." Ed should remember that it's very easy to leave London. But it's virtually impossible ever to get back in.

Readers say

Rent with others

I would suggest you agree to rent a house in Coventry with other members of staff for a trial period,but allow your family to remain in London. This should give you time to see if you are able to get a new job in London or wish to relocate.

Linda Acaster, Birstall, Leicester

Become a commuter

This is a rough situation. I would find out from the company when you can retire on a pension and get an estimate of how much that might be. If you could retire at 60, you might be able to rent a flat in Coventry during the week and come home at weekends for eight years. You are right about job hunting at 52, unless you have skills in strong demand.

David Carter, Shaldon, Devon

Don't be pessimistic

New networks of good friends are more difficult to establish once you, and the children, are older. And if you feel less than positive or excited about the move, then your family is likely to feel the same.

But you are wrong to be so pessimistic about a new job or career at 52. Some, like myself (redundant for a second time at 48), will establish a successful freelance career. You will have skills that are transferable to new areas of work. Talk to as many people as possible, network like mad and explore the possibilities. Let people know you are out there and looking for a new challenge.

Brian Mitchell, Cambridge

Embrace the opportunity

To get anywhere, Ed needs to lose the idea that, at 52, he's unemployable. If he really believes it, then he probably is. Employability has more to do with attitude than with age. He could embrace this golden opportunity to make a new career and take his life in a new direction. If this is a step too far, he should research, contact and register with every recruitment agency in his field. He should ask for, listen to and act upon their advice, especially on self-presentation. When he has his CV, his image and self-esteem polished up, he should think about following up contacts he may have in other companies in his field.

As it's easier to get a job if you have a job, Ed could rent a crash pad in Coventry and commute until his future is clearer. Given time, Ed and his family may well decide that moving to Coventry isn't so bad.

Lorna Verso, Kingswood, Bristol

Tired of London?

Take the job and start a weekly commute. One can stand a non-ideal modus vivendi for a year or so. Get as much of a dislocation package as possible. The company should pay commuting and lodging costs, then moving costs, if you move your household. Let them know what a good company man you are being, and ask if the redundancy deal will be available after a year.

While commuting, look for jobs. You will find one, but you may need more time than this move seems to be giving you.

Bring your family up to Coventry for weekends and show them the best you have found. Let the children bring a friend. What you know will be more attractive than what you don't know.

In Coventry you will be able to have a better house for a smaller mortgage. Your commute will be much shorter. You will be in easier reach of countryside. London is just too darned big. Other, smaller cities have all the restaurants, theatres, cinemas, choirs, am-drams, squash clubs and delis a city-boy needs – and clubs and gigs for the kids. People live in Coventry and like it. Life outside London is less stressed. There isn't a dead-band round the capital, outside which life ceases. There are nice people north of Watford! Courage, mon brave,

Richard Williams, by email

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